CABARET FESTIVAL – Love and Death by Toby Francis – 3.5K

cabaretlogoBy Peter Maddern

While Meatloaf, no stranger to a stumble or two on stage it seems, is the name every one associates with Bat out of Hell, neither he (before and after) nor the album were anything without the songs penned by Jim Steinman. In Love and Death, Toby Francis takes us back to the days before and immediately after when Steinman’s take on the Peter Pan story, as a rock opera, founded and then so did the various relationships between the artists and the producers involved in the album. (It will surprise no one who follows the machinations of the record industry that the record companies are seen as the villains in all this.)

As such, the narrative of the show gets a little confusing as it alternates between versions of that stage production and the separate recorded music which included Rock and Roll Dreams from his solo album Bad for Good. Reading up on the history before the show starts would be time well spent.

Whether by intention or by accident, Francis’ voice very much mimics the slightly weedy, strained voice of Steinman and thus not a patch on the great man’s (but he is no orphan there) and some of the higher notes seemed to be a bit beyond him. Yet, pared back to just a guitar and piano, there was no mistaking the power of Steinman’s song writing – perhaps rightly seen as ‘the lost genius of pop’.

For fans of the album, the writer, and Mr Loaf, Love and Death is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

Cabaret Festival – Sammy J: The Sammy J Songbook – 4K

By Olivia Henry


You might recognise Sammy J from his shows with Randy the purple puppet, the Adelaide Fringe, or ABC’s Playground Politics. Well, he’s back in Adelaide for the Cabaret Festival with The Sammy J Songbook.


Armed with a piano and a juice box, Sammy J takes the audience on a musical adventure through his vivid imagination. His material is surprisingly intellectual and unoffensive, despite covering a range of potentially controversial topics including politics and profanity. His song, “Keeping It Clean” cleverly discusses expletives in comedy without offending the audience, despite using the “F-word” more times than an Aussie bar fight.


Sammy J is particularly gifted when painting pictures of awkward situations, whether it be accidentally grabbing someone’s hand, or getting caught in a web of lies when making small-talk. He also balances musical comedy with chatter and audience participation, which is refreshing as musical comedy can easily get repetitive and boring if done incorrectly. His occasional use of backing tracks is particularly enjoyable, as his dancing is charming and adds an element of physical comedy to the show.


Sammy J is a regular in Adelaide. Click here for tickets to his last Cabaret show on June 19. Otherwise, keep an eye out for him on the Adelaide Comedy scene, because he’s sure to return to in the near future!



CABARET FESTIVAL – Emma Pask: A Latin Fiesta – 4.5K

cabaretlogoOlivia Henry


The award-winning Emma Pask is an Australian vocalist with a new album heavily influenced by Latin Jazz. With an impressive resume (having performed with big names such as James Morrison and George Benson), Pask is the real deal when it comes to nailing that Latin feel. Pask and her band produce music that you can feel in the floor and through your body.


The show is located in the Festival Theatre Stage – literally on the stage. As you enter, you are guided through the doors and onto the stage, where you are seated at a round table to enjoy the performance. This Jazz Bar/Lounge Setting is wonderful and warm, however was made a little uncomfortable as the venue tried to squeeze in as many tables as possible in a small space. The idea was lovely and intimate, but could have been executed a little better. The best way to stay comfortable as an audience member, try to get in a little early to establish your seat and the space around you.


Pask started strong, with a team of talented musicians by her side. Throughout the evening, she sang in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Between each song, she told stories about the music and her background. This felt genuine and gave a wonderful, personal twist to her performance. At one point, Pask sheepishly mentioned that she participated in the Voice, season 2, and her coach Ricky Martin asked her to appear on his upcoming album. Although this would have been an exciting opportunity for Pask, it is better that she remained independent, as she is clearly not a commercial performer; she is a Jazz musician and belongs with musicians like her.


Pask performed a range of music from standards to her own original work. It seems to be surprisingly difficult for artists to produce original jazz that fits comfortably with the old favourites, but Pask pulls this off extremely well.


It’s difficult to discover new acts these days, as jazz (especially Latin Jazz) is hard to master and nail that ‘feel.’ However, Pask does pull it off, seemingly effortlessly with warm, rich tones and excellent rhythm.


A Latin Feel was an enjoyable evening and is highly recommended for jazz lovers of all ages. It’s here for the Cabaret Festival until the 18th of June. For more information and tickets, click here.

CABARET FESTIVAL – Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood’s Mother’s Ruin – 4K

cabaretlogoBy Peter Maddern

From the opening reworking of the Lord’s Prayer around the attractions of gin to the final piano sing-along , Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood tackle their subject matter with surprising clarity given its many presences with them on stage.

Taking us back to the earliest discoveries of the delightful fruits of the juniper and its companions – products containing quinine – the story of gin it seems is much more than a bottle on a shelf capable of dispensing the occasional afternoon lift. Using a wide variety of material, from the very old to contemporary classics and even a little hip-hop, the physically fulsome Marsden and Wood revel in the possibilities.

There is some amusing audience participation, the aforementioned sing-along and a restrained use of foul language that together by the conclusion had most of the audience on its feet – and that before announcing the free gin top up available at the bar after!

Mother’s Ruin is a terrific pre-dinner indulgence with plenty to recall as the night develops later.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

CABARET FESTIVAL – Robyn Archer – Dancing On A Volcano

cabaretlogoBy Peter Maddern

The enduring affection this town has for Robyn Archer was on full show at a packed out Space Theatre Saturday afternoon for her latest cabaret show Dancing on the Volcano. That name derives from the sensation described by cabaret poets and songwriters in Germany, particularly Berlin, between the wars. Archer narrowed her range of material, diligently unearthed and researched by pianist Michael Morley, as songs written between 1920 and 1932 as these were the years where the frothy rivers of post WWI relief and celebration started to develop unsettling undercurrents about what would come.

Drawing on the usual luminaries of the era – Brecht, Weill, Eisler and a delightful series of Frederich Hollaender songs – Archer in her trademark cheery disposition delved through a raft of themes, from Brecht’s obsessions around murder to the schlock and kitsch that came from eventual emigres once the Nazis came to power and they were forced, in a great big hurry, to flee for their lives.

The numbers were short and precise but the jovial delivery did not mask these aforementioned undercurrents starting to surface as the years passed, with all the unease and anxiety that this period would ultimately wrought on the world, all starting with the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Whether intentionally or otherwise, Archer seemed to also allude to our current world where the similarities between where we are eight years on after the Global Financial Crisis and then have eerie if not yet unsettling parallels.

For those set on an annual fix of Weimar cabaret at our Cabaret Festival, Archer delivers a strong and compelling performance.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Adelaide Cabaret Festival – The Composer is Dead – 4K


By Amy Nancarrow.

Frank Woodley returns to Adelaide in all his slapstick comedy glory in The Composer is Dead.

Teaming up with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, “Inspector” Woodley works his way through the various sections of the band, trying to figure out who murdered the composer of the orchestra’s waltz. He investigate the strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion sections, mixing in his trademark physical, slapstick humour brilliantly in time with the music.

This show is a brilliant way to introduce kids to orchestral music. Most instruments are given the time to shine, even the singular harp and tuba. Woodley cleverly gives each section its own personality, and has both adults and kids alike in stitches. In the end, the murderer is revealed, but it may not be who you expect.

The finale of the show uses 20 audience members as a new section of the orchestra, and although the preparation needed for the skit stalled the show somewhat, it was an inventive way to round out the show. Although some pacing issues at the beginning and end, The Composer is Dead was a smart, funny show that suited both orchestral music and Frank Woodley’s comedic style.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

CABARET FRINGE – Phelan Groovy – 3.5K / Cirque Nocturne

thumb_2015-06-02_201146_Cabaret-Fringe-logoBy Peter Maddern

As with the big Fringe in February, the Cabaret Fringe jumps the main show at the Festival Centre by a week and continues throughout the month til 26th June.

If Kurt Phelan’s Phelan Groovy is anything to go by, this year’s program will be as good as any that has preceded it. The star of Dirty Dancing and good looking lad from Queensland, born he says on the rear steps of his parents’ house in Townsville, enchants with a life story from those earliest days through various events and shows, all with some amusing asides and much talk about the middle areas of his body.

His singing is strong and enthusiastic drawing on a number of well-known standards, some with his own re-worked lyrics as he dresses down from neat grey jacket and vest to what may well pass as summer pyjamas. His recounting of a Deborah Byrne mashing is a highlight and treat.

Catch one of his remaining shows tonight or tomorrow afternoon at La Boheme for a ‘Phelan’ good hour of entertainment.

Perhaps at the other end of the scale is Cirque Nocturne, a local aspiring physical theatre show at the Rob Roy Hotel til Sunday evening. Incorporating the usual staples of the genre – juggling, strong man, trapeze, hoops etc – the show lacked polish, even though it was half way through its season when this reviewer attended. Fails seemed to comfortably outnumbered the fantastic though Josh Croall and Natalie Tran thankfully lifted the standards with their respective juggling and suspended curtain gyrations late in the hour.

The problem with these physical theatre shows is that this town is (or has been) annually blessed with all best of the world at various tents in the east parklands in Mad March. Accordingly what may be considered the ‘usual’ standard of shows available is very high and unless one has some spin on the format and can deliver pretty much faultless displays, ho-hum can set in, especially at comparable ticket prices.

Hopefully, this is just the first attempt on the road to greater things in times ahead for Kate Lawrence and her team.


THEATRE – iTedE – Her Majesty’s – 3.5K

itede-david-strassman-enmore-theatre-2016-ventrilo1By Peter Maddern

David Strassman has been coming to Adelaide for near on a quarter of a century with his friends, notably Ted, the teddy bear. This show has expanded his circle to six and includes, as he puts it, a variety of slivers of his self, from father figure (Fred) to Chuck, his inner, self-destructive voice.

Those familiar with the show turned up in full force last evening for the opening (many with teddys under their arms) and were not disappointed in the rapid fire banter, jokes and put downs that are the heart and soul of the Strassman magic. Amongst the patter the usual Adelaide jibes, some missed applied venom directed at the PM and a few mufffed lines added to the zest.

This show is set in Dave’s workshop as he is preparing for a TED presentation on the loss of imagination in the community (due to widely available and accessed digital content) and the suspension of disbelief. It was this that constituted the second half of the show but after the free for all of the first half, the attempted use of cogent argument and constructed debate probably fell short of his expectations in terms of audience response though it provided a monstrous opportunity for him to show off his talents of keeping all his characters talking throughout the discourse – a feat not dissimilar to the masters of chess similes, with here the gab and not the mind on full show.

iTedE proved to be great fun entertainment for the converted and a delight also for those just getting to know the man for the first time.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

FILM – Highly Strung – 3.5K

1By Peter Maddern

Scott Hicks’ Highly Strung is his latest classical musical documentary after the acclaimed work he undertook with Phillip Glass. It follows the path over two years of the newly constituted Australian String Quartet (ASQ) blessed with the use of four Guadagnini instruments sourced for it by Adelaide arts patron Ulrike Klein. As such, the film is quite appropriately named.

The 90 minute production also covers the heritage of these instruments as well as the painstaking production of one of their ilk all counterpointed against the brash, self seeking Carpenters, an American sibling team who see the name Stadivari as nothing more than a brand for the pleasure of their egos and the making of money.

Documentaries pretty much sink or swim on life taking its unexpected courses and being able to capture that drama on the camera. Documentary makers need as much skill sensing the story as they do eking it out of the participants under the full glare of cameras and a future cinema audience. In this Hicks does his best but comes up short in getting to the bottom of what comes between the members of the quartet – the really juicy bit of the film – especially the motives and maybe the madnesses (dressed up as they often as genius) of its first violin leader.

As such, the balance of the final may seem a little out of kilter and the rapid fire editing a similar distraction but fine music and motives underpin a most intriguing picture of a world few of us are likely to otherwise encounter.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

THEATRE – Things I Know To Be True – Playhouse – 4K

Eugenia Fragos as Fran - image by Shane Reid

Eugenia Fragos as Fran – image by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

Geordie Brookman’s approach in 2014 to Andrew Bovell for a new play has proven to be inspired. Coming off The Secret River and previously When The Rain Stops Falling (along with his screen play A Man Most Wanted), Bovell is quite Australia’s leading play write and this, Things I Know To Be True, will only sustain his star in the ascendancy.

Notwithstanding, its composition for the audience is somewhat curious. As for its plot the program speaks only of it being ‘a warm, funny and ultimately tragic family drama about growing up, moving on and what’s left behind’ and that is buried at the base of Bovell’s own notes.

Yet, by its conclusion that suffices as Bob (Paul Blackwell) and Fran (Eugenia Fragos), working class parents, deal with the issues of their four children and of themselves. Poignantly set at Halletts Cove south of Adelaide it reflects as much the unique and somewhat grim circumstances of this town as it does on how much their children are of another era they can barely define let alone comprehend – upwardly mobile and unbounded by the mores of their parents as to relationships and, well, most things.

Its own moral is as hard to decipher as the forewarning of its narrative was to find but ‘even within families fate, like time and tide wait for no man’ is one place to start.

Eugenia Fragos is absorbing and compelling as the know all, calculating mother – our care for her diminishing as the play develops in proportion to how our respect and empathy grows for husband Bob with Blackwell in his usual fine form. Of the ‘children’, Georgia Adamson’s Pip and Tilda Cobham-Hervey’s Rosie delight as siblings of both purpose and devotion yet flawed by those strengths.

Things I Know to be True also at times has the feel of a movie, incorporating Nils Frahm’s music and co-director Scott Graham’s passion for dance and movement. His presence also acts as a welcome restraint on Geordie Brookman’s panache for the absurd ensuring the players develop their characters and relationships with the audience without the noise of cheap laughs.

Geoff Cobham’s lighting, notably an array of hanging filament globes, sets off  Thom Buchanan’s inspired backdrop making all in attendance feel very at home.

This is fine new theatre and the best of that kind that the Brookmans have brought to the State Theatre since their arrival three years back.

Kryztoff Rating  4K