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Saturday, 8 February 2014

CABARET, DANCE AND COMEDY dissected by me

In the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of attending a couple of the Sydney Short and Sweet Cabaret shows, the finale of Short and Sweet Dance and the one-man comedy show ‘The Full Load’ as part of the Midsumma Festival at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne. It’s certainly been a month of variety.

The Short and Sweet Cabaret was one of the best outings I’ve seen as part of the Short and Sweet Franchise. Partly its effectiveness is derived from the formula that almost every act adheres to- a ballad to start, a discussion of how hard love is and then pumping out a showstopper upbeat song to finish in celebration of ‘survival’. But the skill on stage was palpable and ranged from the seasoned performer to the burlesque. Director Kate Gaul offered it a quality eye that helped the cabaret component achieve a polish not always seen in these ten minute vignettes and musical director Daryl Wallis gave it consistency and a professional edge. It was a successful combination of music and theatre and the strongest of the forms in the Short and Sweet Festival.

The Short and Sweet Dance had plenty of good technique in evidence but it also reinforced that whilst many of them are skilled dancers, they are not always actors or choreographers and it means sometimes their intentions can be cloudy and they haven’t really found what they’re trying to say in the images and movement presented. The skill of a proficient choreographer shouldn’t be underestimated. The ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ secret is not just in amassing great dancers. What mostly sustains its success is found in providing the dancers a vehicle to showcase those skills through quality choreography. That is not to say that many dancers in Short and Sweet Dance didn’t display great technique but they couldn’t quite realise the triple threat of acting, dancing and choreography so it can feel disconnected from its audience, like Joseph Simons’ piece ‘Familiar Strangers’ where there was astounding technique but the acting was lacking. Some were more acting than dancing, which was superfluous, such as ‘Sink or Swim’, lovely to watch but the dancing was irrelevant and all our focus was on the one person, a very skilled performer, who didn’t dance at all. The evening ended with a genuine stage-filler in ‘Swingdancin’’ which at least brought an infectious smile to its audience. But I was glad I saw it and I’m all for a festival that allows trained technicians of their craft to present their ‘something to say’.

In a delightful trip to Melbourne I caught Nigel Sutton’s solo show, ‘The Full Load’, directed by Roslyn Oades, at the Butterfly Club. Sutton is a friend (full disclosure alert) but after seeing his show I felt it was well worth reviewing in case you get the chance to see it if it does the Festival circuit.

‘The Full Load’ introduces us to the character of Krispin K, orphaned laundrette aficionado and owner and we in the audience are being trialled or auditioned for the privilege of having Krispin launder your intimates. Amongst the hijinks of learning how to sort clothes, treat stains, fold sheets and intertwine socks, Sutton transforms into his clients and takes us on a journey of their dark and comic idiosyncrasies. It’s an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tale with black comedy and audience interaction and it’s not afraid to include pathos in its punch.

‘The Full Load’ is a well-crafted show that hits all the beats and treats its audience with care and respect. Sutton subtly signposts and manipulates tension and we are partly appalled, mostly sympathetic and always engaged in the plight of Krispin K in this one hour show.


It’s a polished, energetic performance that can be enjoyed by all ages and if it comes to a venue near you, dress to impress and see it. 

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