July 01, 2008


Filed under: Archive,Cabaret

Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Adelaide Festival Centre. June 6 – 14.

Reviewed by Murray Bramwell

Trimmed from twelve working days to seven, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this year has been a bonsai affair but it has packed in plenty of events of interest and quality all the same. The fretful fortunes of last year’s International Guitar Festival have forced economies in many areas of the Centre’s operations. Nevertheless, it seems tough that the Cabaret Festival, which over its short eight years has made strong connections with artists and audiences alike, should have to take such unkind cuts in scale and programming.

Innovations such as the staging of new music theatre works – remember Maltby and Shire’s Taking Flight (now launched on the commercial stage) and last year’s Shane Warne The Musical ? – had the flick this time. But the program retained its successful mix of cabaret, ancient (or should we say, classic) and modern, with a likeable amount of the zany also.

Foremost among the latter was The Burlesque Hour making a welcome return. Led by the startling Moira Finucane, whose sinister coffee waitress routine and white-dress-red-soup slurp-tease are classics of their kind, the line-up also saw exotic turns from former Vitals director Maude Davey and the sometimes bearded Azaria Universe.

For family matinees, self-styled Unusualist Raymond Crowe delightfully mixed old style stage magic (reminiscent of his Adelaide mentor Gene Raymond) along with his U-Tube favourite – shadow hand silhouettes of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World. With his frizzy hair and frisky stage movement, Crowe blends downbeat Chaplin comedy with skilled illusionism and amiable audience schtick.

On the topical satire front, Revue Sans Frontieres – featuring Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott – were on song and on target. Pitch-perfect Biggins was Keating to the life and, with blonde wig, narrow-framed specs and strategically pursed lips, Phil Scott showed Kevin Rudd really could be a micro-managing scout master.

Among a music program featuring evergreens such as Lorna Luft and Rhonda Burchmore were contemporary moderns such as Don Walker, Kev Carmody and, bringing their own brand of spritz and klezmer, Monsieur Camembert. Led by vocalist and narrator Yaron Hallis, their tribute to Leonard Cohen was a festival highlight. With a shrewd selection of songs, readings and snippets of His Master’s Voice, it stretched from Famous Blue Raincoat to Everybody Knows. Also featuring guest vocals from Deborah Conway (First We Take Manhattan) and the amazing Ngaiire ( diminutive Australian Idol winner and showstopper with Bird on a Wire) Monsieur Camembert proved to be quite the big cheese.

And while talking about dancing to the end of love (if we were) Fiona Scott-Norman’s fiendishly named The Needle and the Damage Done provided an hilarious and sometimes disconcerting array of LP kitsch and vinyl atrocity from John Laws to the Shaggs – with no slimy stone unturned in between. She is a dry wit, Fiona, and a journal of record all of her own.

“Cabhooray” The Adelaide Review, No.341, July, 2008, p.31.

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