CABARET FESTIVAL: Reg – Tommy Bradson – Space Theatre – 3.5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoReg Livermore is a legend of Australian theatre and performance, having appeared in a wide variety of roles, across a range of mediums, over the last 50 years. While he is well known for performances in a gamut of musical theatre classics (think The Producers, Jesus Christ Superstar and his much praised turn as Dr Frank’N’Furter in the original Australian tour of The Rocky Horror Show), Tommy Bradson has created a tribute which focuses on Reg’s original characters from his solo shows.

The scene was set with a montage of sights from Australia in the 70s projected on a large screen at the back of the stage – there were the beaches and the girls in bikinis, the big cars and big hair, Gough Whitlam making speeches, and through it all, snatches of Reg performing. It was presented with the beautiful haze of nostalgia and was both effective and affective. Bradson further added to the tone of heartfelt reminiscence with a charming rendition of ‘Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage’.

However, it was also during this song that the first technical difficulties came into play, with Bradson often looking longingly at a screen that didn’t seem to be producing the hoped for images. In addition, the box designed to light up with instructions for the audience (applause, cheer, laugh etc.) in the following skit was very badly positioned, with many people unable to see it and the lighting up of the responses mistimed. This meant that Bradson didn’t get the momentum from the audience that the scene needed to succeed and at times appeared uneasy. However, once Beryl at the Sink appeared, with her potty mouth and highly strung nerves, the energy started to build and Bradson relaxed more into his performance.

The second half of the show was certainly the more successful, with characters such as Carmen Marahuana and Tara the Incredible providing Bradson with a chance to show off his vocal talents, while Vaseline Amalnitrate (the footy-player-turned-ballet-dancer from Perth, complete with swan headdress) was a riot and definitely a crowd favourite. The talented five piece band and two lovely backup singers filled the spaces while he switched between characters, keeping the show moving along, as did projected snippets of original Reg performances. It was through these that you also gained an appreciation of just how revolutionary a performer and commentator he was in his day. A touching anecdote relating Bradson’s own introduction to Reg’s work added a personal element to the performance and his closing rendition of ‘Celluloid Heros’ was powerful and beautiful.

For those who have had the pleasure of seeing Bradson’s own one-man shows at the Fringe over the past few years, this tribute helps to put his creations into a cultural and historical context; he continues to tap into the ethos of Reg’s performances through his own mad-cap characters and stories. While in need of a bit more polish on the technical side of things, this was an enjoyable show, whether as an introduction to, or revisiting of, the characters and spirit of Reg Livermore and the talent of Tommy Bradson.

Kryztoff rating: 3.5K

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