#Val – a campfire kiki with mother
There is something incredibly powerful in the unexpected.
You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that a queer cabaret for Midsummer would be all sass, camp, double entendre, an F bomb here or there, diva tributes and glitter aplenty. And for the most part you would be right. Don’t get me wrong, ALL the afore mentioned are here. But for self proclaimed national treasure ‘Australia’s John O’Hara’ it is the narrative twist that elevates this evening from high camp to something beautifully memorable.
I have long been an admirer of this man’s brilliant vocals, having watched him evolve from the stages of Perth’s independent theatre scene, through WAAPA’s Music Theatre course and on the professional stage. O’Hara’s credits are impressive with roles in some of Australia’s and overseas biggest productions – Cats, Rock of Ages, The Rocky Horror Show, Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, School of Rock and Wicked to name but a few. But it is in cabaret where we get to truly ‘know’ a performer.
#Val is a celebration. A celebration of a wonderful relationship between O’Hara and his mother, Val. Not only is it a very personal exploration on what it means to be a mother of someone who is a little bit different but it also delves into our queer history bringing to light some poignant and often heartbreaking moments. I won’t delve further into this narrative, as said before, there is something powerful in the unexpected. But suffice to say, there was a lump in the throat as O’Hara pays homage to mothers of queer children the world over.
There certainly is a gift in O’Hara’s delivery. #Val – a campfire kiki with mother is true to the meaning of a kiki – a chit chat amongst friends. And that’s exactly what it feels like. It is casual, it is relaxed and it is very, very funny. Accompanied on stage by the equally impressive Andrew Kroenert (musical direction, arrangements, guitar, piano and vocals) we are treated to wonderful interpretations of well known camp anthems and childhood pop memories – think ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Raining Men’, ‘Vogue’, George Michael’s ‘Freedom’ and Sia’s ‘Titanium’. But it is the unexpected song choices, arrangements and interpretations that pack the biggest punch – Dumbo’s ‘Baby Mine’, Cher’s ‘Turn Back Time’, TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and Farnsy’s ‘You’re the Voice’ are all beautifully powerful moments.
This is a true collaboration between performer, musician and director (Shaun Rennie). Each theatrical element, each musical decision and each directional choice is precise and purposeful. Its short two night season deserves an extension and full houses, not only for the talent on the stage but for the feel goods that you take away. Because lets face it, we all deserve a #Val in our lives.