Presented by Cabaret Fringe Festival
Reviewed 13th June, 2021
The welcoming haven of The Jade, with its crackling wood fire and cheerful staff, makes a fitting venue for the very first outing of Amelie Peters’ latest cabaret, an exposé of the evils of working in Retail. Peters commenced this premiere performance with tweaked lyrics to Nine To Five”, whilst accompanying herself on an electronic piano, interspersing the song with factoids, figures (10.4% of Australians work in the retail sector) and witty observations.
Peters has structured a well-researched, cleverly planned hour of self-deprecating humour, sharp observation, poignant moments and readily identifiable retail disasters. Prompt laughter and groans from her audience signalled the landing of each sardonic line. She worked for 3 ½ years in retail whilst studying at tertiary level. She enunciates a series of global instruction to help customers negotiate the troubled world of retail. These include: *Get in and out of the shop in five minutes, *Be polite to your sales assistant, and *Buy at least three things.
There are rewritten versions of well-known songs as well as a number of original songs. Nothing is sung as if Peters cares a jot about the beauty and quality of her voice. She consistently works towards the meaning of her lyrics and the forward motion of her story. Even her melismas are satirical. Her commitment to the narrative is absolute, and very welcome indeed. I could have wished for better crafting in her lyric rewrites; scansion and rhyme sometimes help to make a satirical rewrite even funnier. And clearer, sharper articulation is required so we can all get the jokes. Particularly in quieter moments, Peters lost articulatory clarity (especially the gentle ballad which began “The world is sleeping”).
Playing her own accompaniment, mostly on piano, but once, and memorably, on a jewelled ukulele, really works well for this idiosyncratic performer. Her cabaret etiquette is faultless – she maintains constant and lively contact with her audience throughout. And they love it.
Peters has a useful, flexible mezzo voice with access to a range of textures and effects. (If she were a lead guitarist, she would have a line of 8 pedals taped to the floor in front of her.) She sang and spoke across a broad sonic range. Her acute musician’s ear enables her to speak accurately and effectively with both “bogan” and “naicely Burnside” accents. Her singing quality is largely speech-level, with only slivers of her operatic high range on display. Everything she does is in service to the story she is telling, and her vocal quality is consistently appropriate to the anecdote. All her witty lyrical rewrites and waspish asides deserved to be clearly heard -m better articulation, please!
The back curtains of the Jade stage are black, so Peters’ snappy black jacket, sparkly black midriff top and dark pants disappear on-stage. (In Peters’ publicity shots, her image pops into life because she is photographed against a white background.) Wearing something that stood out against the black curtains would have enhanced this sparkly comedic act.
Another factor which detracted from the otherwise high quality of the show was the dreadful lack of lighting on the wee Jade stage. There were dark spots where the stage lights simply did not penetrate, and, sadly, these were precisely where Peters’ microphones were situated. If she had been able to shift her performance spaces a tad upstage, there would have been a much better light state for comedy.
This first outing of a new piece of cabaret writing shows immense promise. I predict this retail beast will grow into its formidable paws.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 4.5 stars
Venue: The Jade, 160 Flinders Street, Adelaide
Season: 13th – 21st June, 2021
Duration: 1 hour
Tickets: $33:30; conc. $28:30