Reg Livermore! If your answer is ‘Reg who?’, then you weren’t in Australia during the mid to late Seventies. Balmain boy Livermore staged a daring one-man show (complete with a band and three backup singers), Betty Blokk Buster Follies, that not only opened Australians’ eyes to their own society and morals but rubbed their faces in them. Never before had subjects such as depression, drug taking, transvestism and homosexuality been spoken about on stage so freely and openly; and with such hilarity and swearing (oh yes, and an actor bearing his backside). After that, hit after hit one-man shows followed: Wonder Woman, Sacred Cow, Son Of Betty and Firing Squad.
This reviewer remembers being a young matriculating student (equivalent to today’s Year 12) and going to see Betty Blokk Buster Follies at Her Majesty’s as my first ‘adult’ show. It had a huge impact on me, so I was waiting to review Tommy Bradson’s tribute to Livermore, Reg, with baited breath, hoping not to be disappointed.
Was I? Not in the least! Bradson, who wasn’t even born when Livermore was at his height, impersonates the man and his performances brilliantly, recreating every magical moment almost perfectly. “What Makes A Man A Man?” was lacking the Livermore touch of pathos a little; but Bradson more than made up for it in numbers such as “Quiet Please, There’s A Lady On Stage”, “Captain Jack” and his excellent rendering of “Celluloid Heroes”, which brought the house down..
Famous Livermore characters such as: Leonard, the male ex-model; Tara the Incredible, circus performer extraordinaire; Beryl literally chained to her sink smashing the crockery; Vaseline Amalnitrate, the Aussie Rules ballerina; and of course, the lady herself, Betty complete with bare bum all live again thanks to Bradson’s marvellous mimicry and obvious detailed research. To help us remember some of those great moments, and to perhaps let Gen Y audience members understand the man more, there is some great footage of Livermore originals and interviews – even a little well meaning dig at Adelaide – shown throughout the performance.
One thing that is different and works very well is the re-arrangement of some of the songs for the better by musical director John Thorn, leading a great band and two wonderful female singers – none of whom are mentioned, unfortunately.
If you are a Livermore fan, go and discover Bradson; if you are a Bradson fan, go and discover Reg; and if you are a fan of both, just go. You won’t be disappointed.
Would Reg Livermore be proud? Definitely! (He was in the opening night audience).
Quiet please, Tommy Bradson’s on stage!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Space Theatre
Season: 7 – 8 June 2013
Duration: 2hrs 20mins including interval
Tickets: $34.90 – $44.90
Bookings: Book at BASS