Cabaret Festival

Circa and Katie Noonan: Love-Song-Circus – 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Presented by Katie Noonan and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Friday 15th June 2012

The multi-talented Katie Noonan has been working for a long time on her latest project and has now brought it to Adelaide for the Cabaret Festival. She is well known, of course, for her sensational voice, and those that saw her with guitarist Karin Schaupp at the Guitar Festival would be aware of her wide ranging musical interests. Not only do we get plenty of opportunity to hear her singing but we also giving the chance to listen to her equally expert piano playing in this poignant and often very sad production.

Katie Noonan’s concert was inspired by seeing a collection of love tokens, created by engraving messages on Cartwheel pennies, which were made of soft copper and easily marked. These were sent by convicts to their loved ones, from who they had been separated. Her research brought forth many stories of the women who were transported, which she has brought alive in this extensive work.

The format of the concert was a series of songs with occasional instrumental interludes which, although each segment was applauded, gave the impression that Noonan’s intention was that the piece be presented uninterrupted. One felt that she expected applause only at the end, in the same way that in a chamber or orchestral concert the individual movements are not applauded, only the complete works. This idea of it being a piece of chamber music was strongly indicated by the facts that we were given a programme on entering that explained the concert, and that Noonan spoke not a word from start to finish. At the same time, of course, this meant it was about as far from being a cabaret performance as you could possibly get, but so have many other events this year.

Katie Noonan took centre stage at the piano, with the Tulip String Quartet to one side of her, and Benjamin Hauptmann on guitar, dobro (resonator guitar), mandolin and tenor banjo, and Zoe Hauptmann on double bass, to the other. Behind them was an area where the three members of Circa, Kathryn O’Keeffe, Kimberley Rossi and Billie Wilson-Coffey performed their intricate acrobatics and aerial acts.

The music for the string quartet, Benjamin Greaves, first violin, Sarah King, second violin, Belinda Williams, viola, and Louise King, cello, was orchestrated by Steve Newcomb, resulting in some fine chamber music that pushed the quartet, particularly Greaves, who was continually asked to play harmonics.

The three Circa members combined acrobatics and aerial work with balancing and dance, party modern ballet and extending at times into contemporary dance. Acting rather like a visual version of the Greek chorus, commenting on and expanding the stories being told in song, they did tend to also draw focus away from the music at times by their amazing abilities and the beauty of their movements and poses.

Jazz and folk influences came from the Hauptmanns, the jigs being a reminder that many of the convicts transported to Australia were Irish. All of the music was written by Noonan, a few in conjunction with others, aside from the traditional song in 6/8 jig time, Female Transport. She has such a formidable ability to be able to embrace so many styles and to blend them into one concert. A fascinating concert work that should, with its connection to the fine music genre, properly be called a song cycle.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Cabaret Festival web site – Circa and Katie Noonan

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: ended
Duration: 1hr 10mins

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