By Bradley Storer
A rich languorous voice in the darkness, calling and drawing listeners into the deep folds of blissful undisturbed slumber – as Melbourne cabaret mainstay Emma Clair Ford takes to the stage of The Butterfly Club in her latest work Laugh until I Cry, she trails her characteristic air of seductive mystery and refreshing emotional honesty, wrapped up in a honey-hued voice that thrills at the same time it soothes and relaxes.
Laugh Until I Cry is a jazzy exploration of the anxiety-riddled emotional rollercoaster known as adulthood. What sets Ford apart from fellow and equally talented cabaret performers is the absolute economical tightness of her writing, in which not a word seems excessive or unnecessary but perfectly calibrated for maximum effect. Aided by Alister Smith‘s snappy direction, Ford unleashes torrents of manically-driven monologue and beautifully nonsensical dream imagery with admirable clarity and precise diction, the rich underlying musical soundscapes provided by accompanist Vicky Jacobs helping to take the audience on these imaginative journeys.
Ford herself is that contradictory combination of being radiantly charismatic at the same time she is intensely relatable and seemingly ordinary, blessed with a gorgeous voice and comic gift that can take Adele’s ‘Right as Rain’ from a jazzy jaunt into an adrenaline-crazed outburst worthy of Sondheim. Drawing on composers ranging from Gershwin and The Beatles all the way to Michael John LaChiusa, Ford takes us from one end of the day to the other, paralleling the journey from despair to acceptance and forgiveness of our own human frailties.