CABARET FESTIVAL: Martha Wainwright – Come Home to Mama – Dunstan Playhouse – 3.5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoThere is no doubt that Martha Wainwright is an extraordinary performer and the sold out crowd in the Dunstan Playhouse were obviously very excited to have the opportunity to experience her play live. Accompanied by husband Brad Albetta on bass, Yuval Lion on drums and Ben Grayson on piano and keyboards, she showed her own skills on guitar and set the air on fire with her beautiful vocals.

The first half of the set was fairly routine, as Wainwright played a series of great songs of her own. There was a definite shift in the energy when Albetta and Lion left the stage and Wainwright and Grayson played several numbers by Edith Piaf, including the delightful L’Accordéoniste, which Wainwright kindly translated the story of for those of us whose French is a little rusty. This was the section of the show where she started talking between songs and the energy became a lot more interactive and comfortable.

Wainwright shared several stories about her mother, Kate McGarrigle, and played a number of songs written by her, including the delightful I am a Diamond, from an unproduced musical theatre production, and Proserpina, the final song McGarrigle wrote. It was these later numbers, along with an encore in which she performed Stormy Weather, accompanied by Albetta on piano, that were particularly lovely and emotive.

This is one of those shows that prompts you to question just how wide the definition of “cabaret” can be. With the full band behind her, it seemed a little odd to be sitting in the surrounds of a theatre for a show that felt like it would go off in a pub. Having said that, several of her other Australian dates have also been in theatre venues, so it may be a choice on Wainwright’s part. However, whether it is appropriate to be included in a cabaret festival still seems questionable.

While this performance seemed a bit out of place in this festival and Wainwright took a while to offer anything extra to the audience, once she did her likeable personality added to the quality of her performance, to create a pleasant night of enjoyable music.

Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K

CABARET FESTIVAL – Paul McDermott – The Dark Garden – Festival Theatre Stage – 3.5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoDuring this year’s Adelaide Fringe, the staircase to the basement of the Tuxedo Cat was actually a porthole into the mind of Paul McDermott. In the bowels of what was once the David Jones building, you found yourself surrounded by pictures of traditionally cute animals (bunnies, deer, etc.), unsettlingly evolved into rather darker versions. The world they inhabited was a corrupted and dangerous yet beautiful environment, The Dark Garden. The Cabaret Festival now offers a sister piece to this exhibition, as McDermott presents a collection of songs, written during the same period as the creation of this visual art, which explore some similar themes.

This is a show quite directly focussed on loss and the feelings that accompany it. McDermott references the Kübler-Ross model of five stages of grief throughout, and uses this – though with a substitution of one stage for cross-dressing – as the structure for the journey through his songs, with varying success. It is interesting that the stage he chose to substitute was depression and thus, this state of mind is never directly mentioned in the show despite clearly being a heavily underlying sensation throughout. The songs are pleasing, in a beautiful, sorrowful, cathartic way. Musically, the four piece band (lead by Stu Hunter) and string quartet compliment McDermott’s voice and the arrangements are satisfying.

Within the show as a whole, there is an interesting juxtaposition. In between songs, McDermott is the character we know from TV and the Doug Anthony All Stars; a self-confident comedian, full of irreverence, quick with the one-liners, letting rip with a few profanities and telling ridiculous stories featuring characters such as ex porn stars. On the one level this prevents the performance from becoming too overly gloomy, but on the other it jars with the intensity of the songs so that it ends up feeling a little disjointed. Having said this, the presentation of these two very different sides also serves to exhibit the differences between the person that gets presented to the world and the internal feelings not so readily shared; not just in terms of McDermott but for people, particularly men, as a whole.

The lyrics of the songs clearly come from a very personal place for McDermott and this no doubt makes it hard for him to sing them. His performance often felt distant, like he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, allow the emotions in the songs to affect him – or, if he did feel them, allow this sensitivity to be reflected for others to see. While it’s a natural instinct to avoid being overly emotional in front of others, part of a performer’s job is to be the conduit between the passion of the piece and the audience. When he did throw himself into it, and showed some of his vulnerability, it was highly affecting.

While not a wholly satisfying emotional journey, there were certainly some stimulating elements to this show and McDermott has a wonderfully creative mind and beautiful voice. It was interesting to see the ideas and images from the paintings reflected in a different art form and this show and the instillation make nice counterparts.

Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K

FILM – World War Z – 3.5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpihqdefaultWhen this ‘save us from the apocalypse’ flick starts, our hero, Brad Pitt is caught up in the mother of all traffic jams in downtown Philadelphia with his family. Soon, we get the picture things are not normal and a plague of zombies descends upon all soon after.

Thereafter the story follows familiar ground of the former action hero who is reluctantly cajoled and then forced back into service to single handedly save the world and, of course, his family. As is the want of the modern global film industry, Bond like, we then get a Thos. Cook tour of various world locales including South Korea (allegedly), Jerusalem, Cardiff (again allegedly) and Nova Scotia. Even the Soviet satellite of Belarus gets a gig through its national airline that escapes the carnage in Israel.

While Pitt dominates throughout, the film is otherwise strangely composed with any number of substantive supporting acts but none that you would describe as a co-star or leading lady. The most bizarrely interposed character is the son of a middle-eastern family who joins in the Pitt clan after his elders failed to heed pithy words of wisdom from the great man. Just what he was doing in and amongst the otherwise picture perfect nuclear family world is anyone’s guess.

And , while as I say Pitt dominates screen time, he does so at not more than third gear and the best acting of the whole film comes near the end when Pitt is comes face to face with a zombie on the tooth and it is the zombie that wins the performance plaudits hands down over our Bradley.

Having said that, the special effects are good fun, (a good plane crash and zombies piling on top of each other like ants in a feeding frenzy against the wall in Jerusalem – see image – are highlights) though seeing it in 3D is by no means mandatory, and the action races along. Which is a good thing seeing the gaps in logic that get exposed from time to time are ones that the audience is best not allowed to dwell on. Not that the target market for this holiday floss is PhD scholars.

Kryztoff Rating   3.5K

CABARET FESTIVAL – Meow Meow – 5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoBy Peter Maddern

Fans of traditional cabaret may not know whether to laugh or cry as Meow Meow, clad only in her underwear (as a result of ‘a hiring stuff up by her producer’), takes to classic Weimar and New York table entertainment with sword and satire. Whether seeking to inject ‘atmosphere’ into a frigid Adelaide crowd, spice things up with Vegas style lighting and making perhaps the most awkward costume change in theatre history, Melissa Madden Gray is a rollicking delight.

Anyone who has witnessed Dame Edna’s antics will spot the provenance of this show but Gray is unabashed as hapless males are brought up on stage to nurse her various protrusions and folds while she sings and even the members of her two piece band are required to strip down in sympathy with her.

Notwithstanding the roses and rockette dolls flying around at will, there is actually singing going on; rich, edgy and pulsating renditions of works from Brel to Brecht to Radiohead – though amongst the mayhem it is perhaps the weakness of the show that one does not get more of an opportunity to appreciate Miss Meow’s vocal skills.

The is fine entertainment and somewhat like Eddie Perfect’s musical, it may be you will never look at the genre in quite the same way again. A show to enjoy over and over with her crowd surfing finale amongst who booked the earliest a memory that will joyfully stay with you for a long time beyond the show.

Kryztoff Rating   5K

CABARET FESTIVAL: Virginia Gay – Songs to Self-Destruct to – 5K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoThough many people will know Virginia Gay from her appearances in Aussie television favourites All Saints and Winners and Losers, it may come as a surprise to those who have not seen her live before that she is also a powerhouse cabaret performer. Her new show explores the experience of insomnia and the places in your mind that it takes you while the hours slip away. Anyone who has experienced insomnia will know the bizarre mix of desperation and resignation that it can bring, and the way that it can lead to the sense that you’re somewhat losing your mind.

Gay has put together an eclectic and enjoyable mix of songs – from The Backstreet Boys through to The White Stripes, Kanye West through to Casey Chambers – which manage to bring this feeling to the stage. In addition to some wonderfully original covers of iconic songs – think a calypso-esque version of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You – she has a flare for mash-ups, weaving together songs that you wouldn’t normally think would complement each other, into an hilarious yet musically satisfying mix. Assisting her in this are the brilliant Benny Cann on drums, Gavin Pierce on bass and Musical Director Simon Ross on Piano.

Through all of the numbers, Gay’s voice soars out over the crowd. It is powerful and enveloping, with a syrupy quality and clarity that never falters. Her stage presence is mesmerising and her energy, at the same time coupled with the suggestion of more than a hint of the exhaustion brought about by lack of sleep, is infectious.

This is a superb vehicle for Gay to show off her considerable musical and comedic talent and she provided a highly enjoyable hour of entertainment.

Kryztoff Rating: 5K

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2013 – Tom Burlinson – Now We’re Swinging

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoI have been a longterm fan of everything swing music, even predating the hit juggernaut that is the fabulous Michael Buble. So I expected to be in for an absolute treat when the original Man from Snowy River, Tom Burlinson, brought his tribute show ‘Now We’re Swinging’ to the 2013 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Technically, the show was impeccable. Flawlessly performing standards from the Great American Songbook including favourites such as ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Got You (Under My Skin)’, ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Sway’, Burlinson took the audience on a musical lecture describing the origins of swing music, the rise, fall and rise again of superstars such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and then the genesis of the ‘new’ Kings of Swing Harry Connick Junior and of course the divine Buble.

The only problem was that the whole show felt slightly – well, cheesy. It wasn’t the music (which I love), it wasn’t the ability of Burlinson to vocalise it…. it was something indefinable about the whole performance which made it feel a tiny bit as though I was attending a performance in a nursing home or on a cruise ship. There was just a touch too make fakery in the smile, a touch too much wiggle in the hips, to make this show a true success.

If you are a fan of swing, this is a show worth watching. But if you’re not – pick something else from the line-up.

3K

CAB FEST 2013 – Bernadette Robinson: In Concert – 4K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoBy Ben Nielsen

Following the success of the critically acclaimed Songs for Nobodies, Bernadette Robinson returns to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival to debut a new solo cabaret show.

Robinson is the most remarkable performer. As with Nobodies, much of her new show rests upon her ability to channel various iconic singers. This uncanny mimicry is a talent that is even better used comically; “I Love the Nightlife” a la Julie Andrews had the audience in stitches.

Robinson’s classical training has not restricted her ability to successfully delve into other genres.  It may appear a little bit karaoke, but she seamlessly transitions, adapting not just her character but also her entire musical approach.

It’s a shame that the show is quite so consumed by the representation of other artists. A particularly beautiful rendition of “The Blower’s Daughter” is perhaps the only time that the audience really ever hears Robinson’s own voice.

The show is a little too similar to Songs for Nobodies, but it is easy to be swept away by the extraordinary talent that is Bernadette Robinson.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

THEATRE: And No More Shall We Part – Bakehouse Theatre – 4K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpiNMSWP1Don and Pam are a middle-aged couple who have shared a wonderful life together but find themselves in a situation where Pam is leaving Don; prematurely, permanently, pre-emptively. Her death is inevitable but, as Pam sees it, doesn’t have to be painful or prolonged – there is something she can do to make sure of that. It is a decision that Pam has made and Don is having an understandably hard time coming to terms with it.

Writer Tom Holloway has shaped two characters that are likeable, intelligent, funny, strong, and scared. Under the direction of Yasmin Gureeboo, Jacqy Phillips and Peter Green bring this loving couple to life. Their portrayal highlights the sweetness and humour that can be present in such a situation while also recognising the ultimate seriousness of it. Their chemistry is wonderful and each creates a character with whom it is easy to empathise; however, at times the energy and emotion of some discussions didn’t quite hit the expected peak intensity.

The set from designer Manda Webber, creates an atmosphere of a world with little life left in it, but in a beautiful and natural way, highlighting the cyclical changes of life and the inevitability of death. The script is a mixture of scenes in the present and the past and Gureeboo has made the choice to present the flashback segments in film format, projected on the set, rather than live on stage. While this is effective on several levels – it differentiates the timing of scenes well, removes the need for scene changes and enables some interesting directorial links to be made between the characters on-stage and their earlier on-screen selves – and is done to a high quality, it also means that the audience-actor connection of theatre is diminished somewhat for large chunks of the story.

For anyone who has had someone close to them receive news of a terminal illness and faced the inescapability of the situation, this play and the performances in it will be gut-wrenching, heartbreaking and may leave you feeling emotionally shattered. For those that have not, the characters and their plight are still likely to resonate as we all realise it could be us, or someone we love, in that situation one day.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

CABARET FESTIVAL: You, Me & the Bloody Sea – Space Theatre – 4K

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi2013 Cab LogoThere are countless traditional songs about the sea and its role in lost loves and lost lives. Mumpsimus (Cameron Goodall, Quincy Grant and Andy Packer), have put an interesting spin on this traditional theme in creating You, Me & the Bloody Sea by telling the story of four blokes who work on an oil rig in 1975, rather than the customary sailors of old.

Fronted by Goodall, a band made up of some well-known faces (Harley Gray, David Heinrich, Emma Luker and Grant) wend their way through the tale, as the men leave their homes and their women for a fortnight’s hard work in the middle of nowhere. Between songs, Goodall provides poetic narration, as we are introduced to what drives each of the characters and are presented with the foreboding information that not all will make it back home. While this ties the songs together nicely and creates a journey for the characters, it isn’t quite enough to make you feel any emotional connection to them. All five performers are impressive with regards to their musicality, several regularly switching between a number of musical instruments and displaying great talent on each. The accompanying projected animation by Andy Ellis is suitably evocative and compliments the songs well.

The music is heavily based in the folk tradition and ranges from mournful ballads through to intense, modern rock numbers. The songs are all engaging, however there is space for some editing and at twenty minutes over the advertised running time, the creative team may want to think about removing a few of the shorter songs which, while excellent, are not really necessary to progress the story or enhance the atmosphere. There are numerous compositional references to other songs smattered throughout the original works, most notably the beautiful ode to the evils of money which harks back to the haunting strains of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  While Goodall provides lead vocals for the majority of songs and shows off a great range and vocal quality, Luker steps in to give a pleasing voice to the women left behind waiting for their men to come home. Their voices intertwine splendidly in the enchanting Return to Me.

While it still needs to be cut back and tightened in terms of the narrative and set list, the actual words, music and performances are all top quality and it’s a highly enjoyable show.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

FILM – Cloudburst – From 22nd July at Mercury

SMA Kryztoff banner May 13 100dpi

cloudburst_webMomo Films is delighted to announce the release of the award winning Canadian feature film Cloudburst, on 11 July. Starring Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker and directed by Thom Fitzgerald (Hanging Garden), Cloudburst has won 30 Best Picture Awards and enjoyed sold out screenings at film festivals around the world.

 

Kate Whitbread and Spencer McLaren head up Momo Films which is a new and exciting independent boutique distribution company acquiring films from Australia and around the world.

 

Our aim is to bridge the gap between filmmakers and their intended audiences by providing individual, imaginative theatrical and digital campaign strategies.  Often this means employing a more unusual approach than traditional campaigns. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring such a stunning film as Cloudburst to Australian audiences.”

 

Cloudburst is a romantic comedy that tackles some of contemporary life’s biggest issues. Stella and Dot have been together for 31 years, faithfully accompanying one another through life’s ups and downs. Now in their seventies and with Dot legally blind, they are forced to make a bold decision when Dot’s granddaughter Molly decides to intervene in their lives. Forced to become outlaws, Stella and Dot hit the road to Nova Scotia, Canada to get legally married. Along the way, they pick up young hitchhiker Prentice, on his way home to see his dying mother. Prentice has much to learn from Stella and Dot as they wage their unexpected battle struggling to keep their family together after three decades. With equal parts humour and grace, Cloudburst explores life, death and love through the eyes of this unusual trio.

 

Olympia Dukakis is an actress, director, producer, teacher, activist and author. Her resume includes a multitude of film, theatre and television credits and prestigious awards including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Moonstruck (1987). 

 

Brenda Fricker is an acclaimed stage, television and film actress. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1990 for her role in My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown.