Presented by Hey Boss
Reviewed 8th March, 2017
The Parlour venue at the Royal Croquet Club is a cosy, circular room, swathed in alternate red and blue plush; it has the look of a late-night circus. Ms Gnome appears, dispelling my suspicion that she may be vertically challenged. She’s a tall, willowy Canadian blonde. She wears a glitter-edged white cowboy hat, an enthusiastically bad interpretation of a cowgirl’s pink chiffon dress with stiffened skirt and too much sequinned applique, and tooled-leather cowboy boots. She apologises for the dress, explaining it was designed by a stripper. Throughout the show, portions of her dress keep getting discarded. She ends up in a black nun’s habit. It’s complicated.
The format is pure cabaret. She chats to us, she sings original songs, she chats some more. Sometimes she sings to a backing track; sometimes she accompanies herself on a glitter-encrusted guitar. It’s best if I summarise her playlist. Some of the titles couldn’t be listed here without a flurry of asterisks. All of her lyrics include those robust old Anglo-Saxon words. She uses them with shameless gusto, reminding us that they are a legitimate part of our hybrid language.
Her opening (unfortunate pun) song Believe in yourself, considers a dizzying range of objects and utensils, and where they might best fit. Her lyric writing is witty, well-crafted and honed to a comedic point. She follows this song up with This is the part of the show Where you’re allowed to go – giving patrons too thunderstruck by the first song the chance to exit the performance. Nobody does. It’s a reasonably late programme slot, and the audience are clearly happy with her material. Next follow songs about her joy in being able to say a certain word in public in Australia, a fantasy involving the murder of a yapping dog (and, perhaps, its owner too), vegans and their bodily fluids, public farting, hatred of sing-alongs, the reason why babies cry, erect nipples and body hair Down There. The set is rounded out with a gleeful ditty, Death is coming for you and me.
Amongst the songs and the wackiness, Shirley Gnome offers some wry observations. A few samples:
“Montreal – it’s a stinkier, shittier, cheaper Paris.”
“What’s a pop song? It’s just children’s music with more bass.”
”Q: How do you know if someone’s a vegan? A: They’ll tell you…. and tell you….”
Her singing is excellent. Gnome’s voice is in fine shape, showing tremendous flexibility and a finely judged dynamic range. The audience revel in her personality, her material and her performance. It’s a mark of her skill that we hardly notice how highly-skilled she is.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 4.5
Venue: The Parlour at Royal Croquet Club
Season: 7th – 19th March 2017
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $23.00 to $28.00