Adelaide Cabaret Festival understands how its audiences long for connection and community

Adelaide Cabaret Festival understands how its audiences long for connection and community

Now in its 24th year, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival continues to be a beacon of joy and connection, lighting up the wintry nights of Adelaide with its vibrant celebration of cabaret. Under the artistic direction of Virginia Gay, this year’s festival has once again proven why it holds a special place in the hearts of its audience.

Cabaret, often described as a magpie artform, thrives on its flexibility and ability to incorporate various performance styles within its storytelling through song. This year’s festival has embraced this ethos wholeheartedly, creating an environment where audience members, seated at round cabaret tables, can feel a profound sense of connection and community.

One of the standout performances this year was Gillian Cosgriff’s “Actually, Good.” This show exemplifies cabaret at its finest, weaving a story that is both immaculately paced and deeply engaging. Cosgriff’s ability to involve the audience in creating a unique list of likes for each performance adds a layer of personal connection that is both delightful and poignant. Her quick wit, generosity of spirit, and original songs left the audience wanting more, eager to share the experience with friends.

Fascinating Aida, the legendary British comedy trio, also made a significant impact. Known for their sharp, witty, and close-harmony performances, they have been a staple in the cabaret world for four decades. Their show was a masterclass in socio-political satire, with songs like “I’m Getting It” and “Cheap Flights” eliciting cheers and laughter from the audience. A particularly moving moment was Adèle Anderson’s song about her journey as a trans woman, which brought many in the audience to tears.

The festival also pushed the boundaries of traditional cabaret with performances like A Slightly Isolated Dog’s immersive retelling of “Jekyll & Hyde.” This New Zealand theatre group brought a unique blend of anarchic humor and audience interaction, creating a dynamic and engaging experience. The actors, playing outrageous French café staff, seamlessly transitioned between comic responses, audience participation, and close harmony renditions of contemporary pop songs, making for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Jess Hitchcock’s “A Fine Romance” was another magical moment of the festival. Despite overcoming vocal illness, Hitchcock captivated the audience with her sparkling voice and heartfelt storytelling. Drawing from her albums “Bloodline” and “Unbreakable,” she shared personal anecdotes and experiences, creating a deeply intimate and moving performance.

Michelle Pearson’s “Skinny” tackled the complex issue of female body image with humor and honesty. Her depiction of her own struggles with weight loss surgery resonated deeply with the audience, who laughed and cried along with her. Pearson’s powerful voice and candid storytelling made for a compelling and thought-provoking show.

Flo & Joan’s “Now Playing” brought a fresh and hilarious take on millennial life. Their sharp lyrics, precise harmonies, and self-effacing humor had the audience in stitches. From songs about life-changing haircuts to after-work drinking binges, their performance was a highlight of the festival.

The improv show “Musical Bang Bang,” featuring former artistic director Julia Zemiro, showcased the impressive improvisation skills of the cast. With audience suggestions guiding the storyline, the actors created a new musical each night, filled with laughter and cabaret flair.

Gen Z musical comedy stars Mel & Sam also made a splash with their show, which featured slick writing and riotously poetic lyrics. Their performance, aimed at a younger audience, was a refreshing addition to the festival lineup.

The festival concluded with a powerful performance by Lisa Simone in “Keeper Of The Flame,” a tribute to her mother, Nina Simone. Lisa’s stunning voice and dynamic stage presence, combined with a big band of Australian musicians, created an unforgettable evening. Her encore, featuring the entire theatre singing “Feeling Good,” was a fitting end to a festival that celebrated connection and community.

Throughout the festival, Virginia Gay embodied the spirit of cabaret, engaging with audiences and performers alike. From duetting with New York’s cabaret doyenne Mark Nadler to participating in improv musicals, Gay’s presence was a testament to the festival’s commitment to fostering a sense of community.

The nightly piano bar, led by the extraordinary Dr. Trevor Jones, was the beating heart of the festival. Here, audiences and performers came together to share in the joy of music and storytelling, creating lasting memories and connections.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival understands how its audiences long for connection and community. This year’s festival, with its diverse and engaging performances, has once again proven that cabaret is more than just an art form—it is a celebration of human connection and shared experiences.

Source: The Conversation, University of South Australia

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