La Chevre Noir – 2012 Adelaide Fringe

Presented by La Boheme for CABfringe
Reviewed Sunday 19th February 2012

Adelaide Fringe – La Chevre Noir

Venue: La Boheme, 36 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 9pm, Fri 17 and Sun 19 February 2012 (Season ended)
Tickets: Adults $28, Concession $22, Fringe Benefits $20, Group $20
Duration: 1 hr
Guidance: PG
Bookings: Fringetix 1300-FRINGE (1300-374643), their outlets ($2.75 booking fee applies when booking through FingeTix), or online at Fringe bookings

Fun, Frivolity and dubious French

One thing you can always be sure of when Sidonie Henbest, Catherine Campbell, Jamie Jewell, and Hew Parham team up is that you never know what you are going to get. What makes the journey even more exciting is that this quartet has the skill and experience to let the audience believe that they don’t know either.

La Chevre Noir, which is in its third incarnation, starting off as a 3 hour New Year’s Eve piece to see out 2010, and then having a run in the 2011 Cabaret Fringe Festival, is an ever evolving show. The 2012 version takes the original premise of a Parisian cabaret, condenses it from the 3 hour New Year’s Eve show, winds in some new material from the New Year’s Eve Cabaret Indulgence from 2011 and gives it a new plot line.

Henbest, Campbell and Jewell reprise their roles as Celeste, Gigi and Jacques respectively and form the core of the ensemble. Parham rounds out the troupe as a guest character, an Italian celebrity chef, which is yet again proof that the material is written with current events in mind.

The entrances have been some of the most original I’ve seen in cabaret and are perfectly executed within the intimate space at La Boheme. Each member of the ensemble, including pianist Daniel Brunner, making their unique entrance which helps build the story.

The music used to illustrate the plot is a mix of French, humorous, and show tunes. Two numbers from Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman’s La Cage Aux Folles to further cement the comparison. The trio’s rendition of Seventh Heaven’s Camille, Colette, Fifi is hilarious and Campbell’s rendition of Jacques Brel’s Carousel is breathtaking, fully taking the audience back to a joyous childhood, with brightness in her eyes and voice, to the manic urgency of the reality of life and the twists in the plot of the show. Henbest’s French solo has a haunting quality that transports to the image of singer to a little Parisian bar in a bygone era. Jewell’s I Love Paris shows of his comedic talents with an expressive face and voice.

Parham’s guest spot as an egotistical celebrity chef lets the audience hear Parham’s voice, which some audience members may know is usually restrained to the squeaks and squeals and odd noises of his alter ego, Shmoo. This time Parham has been being given musical numbers and an Italian cooking lesson presented at a breakneck speed in what I guess to be Italian, although at the speed it was hard to tell. The clue in the content of Parham’s presentations is in his physicality, using his whole body and the full stage to convey the message.

Whilst the performers had the requisite energy and appeared to be genuinely having fun where the plot allowed for it, I’m not sure if it was the Sunday night timing, or having the audience spread out with gaps, but it was obvious that the performers were having difficulty getting the audience to actively participate when the house lights were up. Conversely, when the audience was asked to refrain from participating, that’s when they decided to join in, in the safety of the darkened room.  As a note to audience members, a moment of unease of being in the spotlight will give you something to tell your friends about the next day, the performer can continue on with the show, and everyone has a good time.

Whilst the current season has ended, if this show is reprised at later festivals it is well worth adding this to your “must see” list, even if you’ve seen it before. As the three incarnations so far indicate, each season brings a new story and new songs, with a common thread of the characters and the setting.

Reviewed by Jade Kops, special guest Fringe Critic, Glam Adelaide.

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