Cabaret Festival – Circa and Katie Noonan – 4K

Songs about Australia’s convict women does not much sound like a riveting hour of cabaret entertainment and the prospect of having them combined with circus gymnasts hardly sounds a likely fusion of forces. But enterprising Australian singer Katie Noonan and three dancers from the fabulous Circa make it happen.

Two years in the making by Noonan, Love-Song-Circus is a tribute to determined dedication. Drawing from field trips to places like the National Library and Port Arthur, books on the topic and the actual letters of the women caught up in the times and circumstances, Noonan has penned lyrics from their perspective. Laments of easier lives lost, the hurt arising in the separation from children and family, the brutality of doing the time and the abuses suffered and desperate measures taken as a result of poverty and isolation are all brought to the fore. It is an emotionally fraught experience.

The dancers, Kathryn O’Keeffe, Kimberley Rossi and Billie Wilson-Coffey, speak to the strengths of the women the subject of it all in often extraordinary feats of grace, agility and force on the back stage, especially in the ‘interludes’ where the audience’s eyes are for them alone.

Backed by the Tulip String Quartet, Zoe Hauptman on double bass and Benjamin Hauptman on all manner of guitars, Noonan’s shock of red hair at the piano quickly sets the tone (applause was deferred to the end) and patrons are drawn in to the stories and the atmosphere. Just how this show can get to travel from these world premiere performances remains to be seen but they speak to the extraordinary and challenging variety of acts that Festival director Kate Cebrerano has marshalled so well in this year’s Cabaret Festival.

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