A lot has already been written about the Strange Bedfellows, so it’s difficult not to rehash what has been said before.
Chapel Off Chapel seemed a fitting venue for these devious miscreants. Alas, the 10.15pm start might have proved a little late for the Friday night Chapel Street shopping crowd, and may explain the modest audience numbers on their Opening Night of this short two night season.
On entry into ‘The Loft’, a black box style theatre, we were presented with a simple cabaret setting: Grand piano (lid down and muffled with a blanket) a single armchair, a red stool and 2 microphones. 2 empty champagne flutes adorned the red stool… And were, somewhat surprisingly, never filled with the traditional Bubbles! (Disappointing – we all want the illusion our hosts are ‘half-tanked’ when they perform!)
The opening included a fitting tribute to Robbie William’s “Let Me Entertain You”, and entertain they did, from the moment they burst onto stage! What followed was an eclectic, yet cleverly assembled selection of songs ranging from light-hearted, sexual innuendo-filled comic pieces, through to sublimely dark, serious and more disturbing, pieces, such as the highly descriptive “Orange Man at the bottom of the slide”…
Jacqui Dark showed her true versatility as a performer, and proved to be equally at home swapping between her Operatic Soprano Diva (the queen of the Night even makes an ever so brief appearance) and that of a tragic musical theatre heroine, at one stage milking a musical phrase reminiscent of “I Dreamed a Dream” to within an inch of its life… Her German Operatic version of “Tainted Love” was stroke of genius, starting in traditional Wagnerian fashion, before eliciting half-stifled titters from the audience, as the penny dropped.
Kanen Breen commanded the stage, with solos that engaged and captured the audience. His seemingly effortless glide into falsetto/ head voice was a vast contrast from his strong operatic tenor… I’d only ever experienced him playing ‘Nanki Poo’ in Opera Australia’s Mikado a few years ago, so this came as pleasant surprise. His quirky and cheeky sense of humour is quite magnetic.
Daryl Wallis, on piano, was highly accomplished and amply showed his agility and versatility, adding backing vocals when needed. The Grand Piano, despite the attempts at muffling, proved a little loud against the voices at the beginning, in the relatively small space of the Loft, but it didn’t take long for the audio mix to find a nice medium.
Costumes were a traditional Cabaret affair of corsets, fish-nets and feathers. The overly exposed flesh seemed to enhance the awkwardness experienced by the audience at times, and one might like to think, that the performers themselves were ill at ease at times… Yeah, right! Unfortunately I found myself at one point thinking “Damn, now I know what Mother Superior’s legs are going to look like under that habit”… Congratulations must go to Dark on her upcoming role in The Sound Of Music.
Lighting was simple and suitably moody, however I felt some simple use of a pin or follow spot could have highlighted more of the angst, comedy and pure emotion on both of these extremely expressive faces.
A rapturous finale that paid (a not so subtle) tribute to the King And I, ended with almost Vaudevillian tragedy, but the two returned for a superb encore to the pleasure of the appreciative crowd.
Dark and Breen are such equals on so many levels, yet at the same time are two completely polar opposites… it’s not hard to see the chemistry hard at work here.
These two have made a powerful foray into the underworld of Cabaret. I hope to see them continue to push the envelope at future festivals, and based on the glowing public response, I’m sure they can be assured of continued success, with whatever or wherever their fancy takes them.