What does it mean to be a “badass”? In a one-night-only performance of her new cabaret, Melbourne star Tash York comes to Toff in Town with guns a-blazin’ in a millennial take on what it means to be badass in this day and age.
Tash York’s Badass is one to remember. In such an intimate space with a petite proscenium stage, Tash York and her savvy band dominate the space with a competent and authentic air, a true blend of talent and humanity. Tackling clichés to the ground in a whole new slam of sound and style, York and her band use the power of music to ponder York’s experiences in the dating scene and the traumas she has faced as a victim of toxic relationships, mental health, financial distress, and pretty much the summary of an artist’s life. Genuine in her discussion of anxiety and identity, York’s face-on, head-first approach is an attempt to normalise the negatives that affect everyone to some extent; with mental illness being recognised in 1 of every 5 Australians, York’s comical but clever engagement of sensitive subjects sheds light on the touchy matters, and allows all to live her journey with her whilst sharing their own journeys vicariously on the stage as if they were finally letting the weight of their stories off their shoulders.
Directed by Tash York, the piece follows many true stories of her life growing up in the shadow of what it means to be a “badass”. With consistent comedy and a powerhouse voice, York opens up and let’s us delve into her history of battling anxiety, maintaining unhealthy expectations, her relationship with herself, her bizarre and unique addictions and compulsions, and her acknowledgment of toxic masculinity and the patriarchy personally affecting her. In her crimson red flared suit and smooth-yet-sharp makeup, York looks the fiery deity she strived to be in her youth, but with all the humility and groundedness of an everyday person who has a little more perspective and experience than apparent. Strong and unabashed but with her heart on her sleeve in hopes to open the gateway for others to be vulnerable with their stories, York’s fun-loving tales of woe and wonder captivate those with a rhythmic pulse, inspiring those who deserve to hear the sound of their own hearts beat.
Being the multidisciplinary package, Tash York and her band quiver with energy onstage as they lay down tracks both old and new in an electric performance. With everything from rap to pop to theatrics to parodies, the music of the night keeps on giving and growing, leaving the audience rocking in their chairs with satisfaction and anticipation. The obvious highlight was that of a completely improvised number involving a celebration of an audience member’s badassery, in which York – over a consistent progression from the band – began to create a song on the spot with perfect rhymes and crazy lyrical ingenuity that proved to all her being an incredibly quick-witted musician and creative. With that being the cherry on top of the sundae, we can’t ignore the topping: occasionally piping in throughout the show on top of his playing ability, our pianist provides some backing vocals that are often hilarious in context, layering the comedy-cabaret with that extra pizzazz of flavour.
Although the sound design was intelligent in its levels and was balanced to let York shine while never overshadowing her supporting artists, the lighting design did not hold the same consistency. Flickering on and off and changing mid-song and -scene, the lights seemed to change sporadically for the sake of changing, and not to provide any nuance to York’s performance. Often fading into a blackout at the end of a number, we lose our engagement with the performers onstage due to the constant finality that comes with a blackout, and due to the short nature of the piece and the need to flow through points without separation, the lighting turned out to be distracting more than determining. The management of the lighting design, alas, did not live up to the same prowess of the performers, who were often – quite literally and figuratively – left in the dark.
Growing up as a “tomboy”, York always aspired to be the ultimate badass. However, it was not until now that she truly acknowledged what that meant. It ain’t being of an ethnic background in a socio-politically skewed position as it may once have been – it is the surviving a panic attack during sex, crying over Finding Nemo and craving chicken nuggets by the hour. Our humanity is our story, and owning that is pretty badass in its own right. Reminding us of the value of appreciating our pain and persistence individually, Badass boosts its audience in its message that all of us are can don that title. We just need to say it to see it.