June 30, 2006

Cabaret Funnies with a Cutting Edge

Filed under: Archive,Cabaret

Tina C in Manifesto
Christopher Green

Double Exposure
Marty Murphy and Flacco

Keating !
Casey Bennetto and the Drowsy Drivers
Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2006
Festival Centre

Murray Bramwell

There have been many snazzy ladies in the Cabaret Festival but none quite like Tina C. She is the leggy creation of the surprisingly leggy Christopher Green, a UK actor and comedy scriptwriter who has waxed and wigged and put a ten gallon hat on the newest ultra-patriotic queen of country music. Tina C, (that’s short for Tennessee) sings from her newest CD, Scars and Stripes, and her mission, with her “anti-anti-American” goodwill tour, is to be a poster girl for democracy. There are some familiar targets here and it is essentially a one-joke show. But it is a good joke and a timely one. After a rap version of Waltzing Matilda, and a Hendrix-like Advance Australia Fair, Tina sets us very right on misunderstood US foreign policy – especially I-rack – and confides her star spangled plan to run for President. Tina is red, white, very blue, funny – and a credit to her home town of Open Throat Holler.

The funny stuff in the festival has been well-chosen. Double Exposure, a revival of a Sydney show from 2004, brings the other-worldly talents of Marty Murphy and Paul J. Livingston, aka Flacco, in a double feature of fastidiously prepared, low-key amusement to tickle hitherto unexplored parts of the frontal lobe. Murphy’s Happy and Clean is a meticulously told shaggy turkey story about how he became a B-grade movie director. He does the many voices, he captures some old style Sydney dialect and, most of all, keeps his nerve with comedy that is as fragile as it is diverting.

Flacco is, of course, the master of this eggshell humour and has refined it over more than twenty years. His deadpan makes everyone else look hyperactive and his timing is nano-second perfect. In his striped frock coat, and with his single strand comb-forward, he presents his alabaster pate (“I’m not bald, I’m deciduous”) for general scrutiny. Who knows what goes on inside his intricate mind but for the rest of us Flacco is intent on Releasing the Imbecile Within.

It is a brilliant way of satirizing everything from multi-mediocre personalities to the cult of Ikea. His wordplay is as fevered as ever, as he describes his semiopathy (inability to comprehend signs), does ludicrous Alfred Hitchcock impersonations and occasionally, as he puts it, goes below the plimsoll line of comedy, only to remind us how bankrupt so much effing and blinding stand-up is, compared to Flacco’s gem-like flame.

Keating! – the musical, has been one of the true highlights of the festival season. Delivered in one crowded hour of reggae, rap, soul and power ballad, Casey Bennetto and the Drowsy Drivers re-chart the comet-like trajectory of the Placido Domingo of Nineties politics. Keating! is witty in its inferences and compact in it chronology. All the big moments are recalled – the Kirribilli agreement with Bob, the debate with Hewson, the incrementally creeping progress of Howard, the Kernot-Evans affair, the final isolation of the Medici One. Bennetto’s lyrics are funny but also tinged with admiration and a sense of what might have been. The band is crisp and energetic and Mike McLeish is slim-hipped and razor sharp as Keating. Bennetto plays the serial rivals with vaudeville verve, but for his eponymous hero he allows a kind of grandeur – and one more chance to imagine a different light on the hill.

“From Tina C to Special K” The Adelaide Review, No.295, June 30, 2006, p.16.

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