Courageous and strong
Presented by: Jodie Atkinson
Reviewed: 2 June, 2023
In the warm, inclusively friendly Diverse-City venue, Jodie Atkinson premieres her highly personal cabaret to an enthusiastic sell-out audience. In it, she sings and speaks about loss of all kinds, and the consequent grief we all experience. She promises us “a long hard look at grief”. The evening is a lot more fun than you might expect.
The title of the show comes from a self-help book of the same name published by Atkinson a couple of years ago. In it she uses some of the adversities of her life to enable people seeking ways to handle the overwhelming immensity of grief. The structure of her cabaret combines personal anecdotes, songs and nuggets of wisdom about the individuality and universality of grief. Atkinson, as author, speaker, fitness coach and Grief Recovery Specialist, adopts a chatty, colloquial style. Her direct, clear language and nice-lady-from-next-door manner ensures that her audience is quickly on her side. As she drifts between spoken to sung text, the wonderful Lainie Jamieson accompanies her on the grand piano, frequently supplying emotionally appropriate underscores to passages of spoken text, and sometimes quietly singing effective harmony lines as well. Jamieson’s tempi are perfect, her volume levels are finely calibrated, and her sensitivity to the material and the performer is superb.
The playlist is fascinating; it includes The Temper Trap, The Dead Kennedys, Alanis Morissette, P!nk, Violent Femmes, Anastacia, Reba McEntire, Adele and Coldplay. Thirteen songs appear, with only a few lines sung from some, while others are sung in their entirety. Atkinson uses them to excellent emotional advantage.
Yes, this show is about grief, and how to handle it. But there are many laughs – and isn’t that one way of handling grief? Atkinson never allows the mood to descend to maudlin wallowing. There’s sincerity, clarity and wisdom as well as absurdity. “Your grief can be a powerful teacher”, she reminds us.
At the end of the show, after she thanks her accompanist Jamieson (who never puts a finger wrong all night), Atkinson acknowledges the guiding hands of Amanda Ryan and Michael Griffiths. It is possible to discern their trademark cabaret style in the scaffolding surrounding Atkinson’s narrative.
The only two shows advertised were sold out, and an extra show was announced by the management in a week’s time. Few Cabaret Fringe shows have success at this level. Atkinson has worked hard to shape a personally confronting and exposing performance which speaks to an audience of all ages and experiences. As she continues to present this cabaret – part entertainment, part public health service – her speaking style will become less ‘presentational’ and her singing voice will grow in both confidence and ease. For a first outing of an entirely new piece of cabaret, this is a damn fine start.
Reviewed by Pat H. Wilson
Photo credit: Ben Searcy
Venue: Diverse-City, 116 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 2nd & 4th June, 2023 [both sold out]. Extra show, 9th June 2023.
Duration: 70 minutes