Mata Hari is a figure from modern legend. It’s very likely that even if you don’t know her story you have at least heard the name and already have some images of her in your head. Talented young actress Bianca Sheedy attempts to re-invigorate the legend in her cabaret show premiering on the first night of the Adelaide Fringe, The Mata Hari Project.
Mata was a much beloved burlesque dancer from the Netherlands who became a German spy, seduced her way to the highest echelons of power and was then violently executed by firing squad. Mata Hari was the original femme fatale, long before any Bond girl.
It might have been too much to ask to condense an entire life of political intrigue and war time drama into one 50-minute performance, but Sheedy definitely gives it a good go. Her monologues, albeit a little dry, do give us the abridged history lesson that a lot of us would need to understand just how incredible Mata Hari’s story is. Sheedy delivers her lines well, without fault even (at least until the end of the performance when a few mistakes began to slip in).
Sheedy is also a quite a good singer. Though she doesn’t have the most powerful delivery I’ve experienced, she shows all the signs of a well-practiced and controlled vocalist. Her costumes were great as well, effectively bringing Mata Hari back to life on stage.
The performance was let down, however, by the absolutely terrible sound quality of the pre-recorded monologues that were sprinkled throughout the show and the rather lacklustre backing music. Not to say the keyboardist was not talented, but this performance could definitely use a better quality keyboard, or even better, more instruments. You can only go so far with cheap synthetic sounds.
The Mata Hari Project delivers a tale of intrigue and deception and some great tunes from across the breadth of the century, though it could definitely be a stronger show with a few tweaks here and there.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 5: 2
Venue: Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre, Lion Arts Centre, cnr North Tce & Morphett St, Adelaide
Season: 13 February – 1 March 2015
Duration: 50 minutes
Tickets: $15 – $25
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or at a FringeTix box office (booking fees apply)