Love her or leave her, Tash York is one of a kind.
By Nick Pilgrim
While the performer’s glittering persona and determined political agenda may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is no denying her focussed bravado and unapologetic passion. Think stand-up sensation, Pam Ann, meets that Material Girl, Madonna, with shades of Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, Kitty Flanagan, or Julie Brown thrown in for good measure, and you quickly get the idea.
One of the standout acts from this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival, York’s powerful sixty-minute set features a multitude of socially-conscious moods and time-savvy reflections. In summary, how 2020 and the virus which dares not speak its name, continues to affect and impact us all.
This, York does by reconfiguring and rewriting lyrics to a solid handful of well-known pop and rock hits. In “Trash Talk”, she chooses to cover iconic divas from The Andrews Sisters (‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’) to Shirley Bassey (‘History Repeated’) and beyond. Backed by The Red Red Wines (Matthew Hadgraft and Vivien Fonteyn), this fun-loving drag duo support her show throughout with spontaneous humour, as well as expert piano and violin accompaniment.
York also intersects each song with a quirky clutch bag of personal stories and anecdotes such as what defines a crazy cat lady, dealing with ‘Karens’, and decluttering your life like Marie Kondo. Somehow, it all works. “Trash Talk’s” structure reminds me of a similar approach tackled by Britain’s Julian Clary. His brilliant theatrical tours always looked like they were about to topple over at any second, such was their deceptive construction.
Having stated this, the absolute highlight of her routine was called Five-Year Plan. Here, audience members were asked to offer ideas for a song York and her team improvised on the spot. Reinforcing the nervous hilarity, she even added the disclaimer that her challenge may or may not work. Thankfully in this instance, with random suggestions that included ‘marrying Oprah’, ‘getting another cat’, and ‘Palm Springs’, the attempt went off without a hitch.
Sparkling costume design, combined with excellent sound and lighting support, added to the frenetic arena-sized atmosphere contained within Chapel off Chapel’s intimate venue setting. “Trash Talk” is a loud and proud experience which would suit any cabaret, comedy and rainbow festival schedule, or indeed, work a stand-alone format. It was a journey well-worth taking.