While many consider ‘cabaret’ to be a specific genre of music and performance, the broader and more accepted definition is about the venue and the manner in which the performance is presented.
Kate Ceberano’s Cabaret Festival is tribute to just how broad cabaret entertainment can be, appealing to any and all tastes. There’s no better evidence this year than RRAMP: the Collector, the Archivist & the Electrocrat, an absurdist musical comedy co-created by one of the talents behind the much-loved comedy ensemble, The Kransky Sisters.
Featuring abstract storytelling, spoken-word songs, operatic tuens, dancing drummers, laser lighting and stop-motion animation, there’s few other ways to describe this quirky gem than brilliantly outrageous.
Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson take to the stage dressed in blacks and browns with the view that it looks good in pink lights. Behind them, Ahmarnya Price’s deceptively complex stop-motion animation fills a screen that visualises the stories and songs. Those songs include the heart-warming tale of a love triangle between three chickens; a hard-edged tea set with not enough cake; and the tragic story of Mavis and Lili – a hen pecked hen who found a sense of belonging in the friendship of a dog.
The brilliance of the show is that, despite the absurdity, lead singer Christine Johnston brings enough melancholy to the piece that the bemused audience becomes emotionally engaged, to the point of audibly crying out over tragic twists to the stories. The stories all have meaning and reflect our own fears, romances, desires and dreams.
It’s clever comedy, boosted further by excellent voices and superb musical accompaniment by all three performers. The music ranges from heavy rock and electronica to ethereal backings. Drummer Lisa O’Neill choreographs every move she makes, whether dancing or drumming. She’s a show-stealing talent despite the urge to focus on the deadpan delivery of Johnston and to admire the musical talents of Nelson on guitar, keyboards, trumpet and bells.
Concerts are a dime a dozen and, as fantastic as they often are, there’s no business like this kind of show business, which is as refreshing as it is memorable. More than a concert but less than a play, Rramp is an engaging, bittersweet theatre of storytelling that challenges the norm and finds success at every turn.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 12-14 June 2013
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: $29.90 – $44.90
Bookings: Book at BASS
Photo credit: Sean Young