Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Skinny

With a powerful velvety voice, Skinny is everything you could want in a soul deep cabaret show

With a powerful velvety voice, Skinny is everything you could want in a soul deep cabaret show

Presented by: Michelle Pearson and  Frank Ford Commission 
Reviewed: 15 June 2024

Michelle Pearson has had it with society’s obsession to be skinny. From childhood belittling, to teenage shaming and adult phases of fad diets, gimmicks and even surgery, she’s experienced it all and is here to dispel the myth that “nothing tastes as good as skinny”.

This cabaret homage to the struggle for thin opened with a shadow aerobics back screen of lithe figures grooving to the pop beats of Gloria. Enter Pearson in her orange leotard; at first appearing apologetic for her robust figure, that changes as the show evolves. Addressing the audience, she warns that the content to follow may be discomforting — as a society, we tend to avoid direct discussion about weight, and especially “overweight”, all the while silently condemning those who fail to conform to body beautiful trends.

In the 70 minutes Pearson was on stage, her powerful, velvety voice quite simply wowed. A public entertainer from the age of fourteen, she has an electric stage presence that kept the audience engaged throughout. Using well known songs, both of the pop variety and more classic collection, Pearson wove her story of what she’d done to be “a little bit skinnier” through interludes between songs, even changing lyrics to highlight her struggles. Of particular note was the rearrangement of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire to list the range of drugs on offer to “fix fat”. Supported on stage by a four piece band, the music was superb and Person’s vocals cannot be praised highly enough. My personal favourites of the night were Radiohead’s Karma Police and a ballad version of California Dreaming. That said, all songs were flawless and enchanting.

Part of the show involved short interview clips with ordinary people discussing their battles with the bulge and the extremes they’d gone to in efforts to lose weight. Confronting and relatable, these stories highlighted the dreadful and terribly sad way people see themselves and the part larger society plays in sustaining these harmful beliefs. When asked what was the most hurtful thing ever said to them about their weight, one man said he’d been called a “fat whale” by an adult when he was only 12-years-old. Another effective tool was a brief look at the ‘ideal body shape’ throughout the ages from ancient Rome to the present day, well paired with ‘History Repeating’.

Without giving everything away, Michelle’s personal story is at the extreme end of what can happen when the desire to be skinny is all pervasive, but elements were relatable to all. My date said she was mesmerised, that the insights and messages resonated with her as nothing about weight had before, and there were certainly murmurs to this effect from those seated all around.

If you’re debating whether to catch her final show at 6pm tonight, just go — it’s amazing, sad, beautiful and hopeful. Everything you could want in a soul deep cabaret show.

Reviewed by Samantha Bond

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella 

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 15-16 June
Duration: 70 mins
Tickets: $30-54

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