Tag: Bec Matthews

Benn Bennett in OCCASIONAL SUBURBAN WITCH

Delightfully and darkly bewitching

By Bradley Storer

The ‘witchy woman’ of the Western suburbs gathering ingredients for her potions under the scrutiny of her perplexed neighbours – song-writer Benn Bennett uses this opening image as our gateway to explore ideas of modern witchcraft in relation to the role of women in society.

Occasional Suburban Witch.jpg

Bennett is a charming and charismatic host for the evening as he guides us through the combination of original songs and occasional cover to celebrate femininity and the wisdom of women. His topics range from the previously mentioned ‘suburban witch’, his inability to ever be a ‘nonna’ to dream-like love songs involving orange trees (it makes sense in context).

Sarah Ward provides backing vocals for Bennett as well as taking lead during several songs, her huge range shown off in a Balkan gypsy-esque vocalese that segues into a dramatic rendition of the Stevie Nicks classic ‘Rhiannon’. Ward comes close to stealing the entire show with her hilarious background moments of physical comedy, making it hard to take your eye off her even when silent. Bec Matthews in addition to providing backing vocals is virtuosic in her drumming ability, using brooms all the way to kitchen implements to create percussive backings for Bennett’s music.

For those with a taste for the occult mixed with a dash of feminism, Occasional Suburban Witch is a dark delight that begs to be devoured!

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place (off Lt Collins St)

Time: 7pm

Dates: 16th – 20th November

Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com or at the door.

Price: Full $32, Concession $28, Members $26, Group (6+) $25

REVIEW: Yana Alana is COVERED

Captivating as ever

By Bradley Storer

Cabaret provocateur Yana Alana, the alter-ego of performer Sarah Ward, emerged from behind a scrim after her opening number, fully clothed – which she noted was a rarity after touring her critically acclaimed show Between the Cracks for the last three years, where she appeared completely nude. Here she was for the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival cheekily taking her show title Covered in both the literal and figurative sense, with no nudity as she only sang the songs of other artists, backed up by the multi-talented members of her band The Piranas, Louise Goh and Bec Matthews.

Yana Alana is COVERED

Even when singing the words of others, Yana Alana remains a fiercely individualistic and ruthlessly entertaining performer, bringing her unique interpretations to the works of Tom Waits, James Shelton, Puccini and even Beyonce, her incredible voice scaling from a Bassey-sized belt to an operatic soprano. From trying (and spectacularly failing) to achieve complicated dance moves to running screaming offstage from one end of the venue to the other, Alana is utterly and wonderfully shameless in her pursuit to entertain.

If anything, Covered is light on Alana’s usual repertoire of political and cultural satire and self-loathing narcissism, choosing instead to use the out-of-context lyrics from various songs as segues between sections. This can feel a little toothless compared to the usual ferocity of her work, but the level of artistry and craft present means she is, as always, completely compelling and absolutely unmissable.

Dates: 29th September – 3rd October
Time: 8:30pm
Venue: Main Theatre, Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne.
Tickets: Full $35, Concession $25, Cheap Tuesday $15
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au, (03) 9660 9666, at the door.

REVIEW: Anya Anastasia in TORTE E MORT

Treat yourself

By Bradley Storer

Bedecked in a gorgeous 18th-century aristocratic French court gown topped by an appropriately extravagant wig, cabaret performer Anya Anastasia swanned elegantly through the audience at the Melba Spiegeltent, her entourage (comprised of one drummer and one back up singer) strewing her path with rose petals while she blew kisses and flirted with the crowd.

Torte e Mort

From this decadent entrance, Anastasia took the audience on a wild ride loosely inspired by the cautionary life of Marie Antoinette – under the direction of Sarah Ward (AKA cabaret provocateur Yana Alana) the journey spins delightfully towards the grave and beyond, bouncing with dark glee from musical tales of Antoinette’s extravagance to doom-riddled warnings from a certain ‘post-apocalyptic auctioneer’ who sells off the French queen’s post-mortem possessions.

Anastasia exudes an ecstatic sense of anarchy, whether it’s contorting her body to ridiculous lengths all the while still plucking out a melody on the piano, or executing a striptease that shifts compellingly between burlesque and a contemporary movement piece. The titular songs of cake and death, with drummer Bec Matthews expertly accompanying, run the gamut from manic and adrenaline-crazed elegies to the parties of the French aristocracy, black-hearted and jaunty tunes that recall Tom Waits at his most bleak, all the way to a simple and chilling ukulele tune about inevitable mortality. However, a section which pays visit to the devil and an ode to the advantages of self loathing, while entertaining, spins so far from the central topic of the show for reasons that are unclear that it almost seems unnecessary.

Overall Torte e Mort is a wildly inventive show that bursts with ferocious creative energy, drawing laughs one moment before chilling the blood the next – a delicious and bloody treat for lovers of cabaret!

Dates: Wednesday 16th September – Sunday 20th September
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood
Time: 8:30pm (Wednesday 7:45pm)
Price: Full $25, Preview $15
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au, 03 9660 9666, at the door.

REVIEW: Circus Oz – FROM THE GROUND UP

Nostalgia, comedy, spectacle and surprise: the perfect circus experience

By Kim Edwards

The Circus Oz Big Top at Birrarung Marr by the Yarra in the heart of Melbourne was simply athrill last night with a noisy excited eclectic crowd. It’s been a long time since I attended a circus, and as an adult my only experience had been vague disappointment at a rather dirty, tired, jaded show. This time and for this company however, the atmosphere was of joyous excitement and anticipation, and I honestly felt as revved up as the kids behind me who could scarcely sit still…

From the Ground Up did not disappoint: after plenty of theatre and performance art viewing in my career, I was rapturous to be genuinely amazed, surprised and delighted by this show. I loved the happy front-of-house folk, the great seating design to ensure there isn’t a bad seat in the house, the fantastic use of space and non-stop performance action, and the energised, hilarious, charming and extraordinarily multi-talented cast.

They tumbled and flipped and clowned and sang and swung and joked and juggled: I caught my breath as Mason West teetered precariously atop the Chinese pole, was mesmerised by Luke Taylor’s witty and dexterous video-game inspired block juggling, and laughed spontaneously at Flip Kammerer’s aerobic antics. It’s a wonderful idea to develop the show’s characters so thoroughly and make the audience look forward to the reappearance of their favourites, including Jeremy Davies’ slapstick magic acts and dainty Stevee Mills’ death-defying trapeze work. (N.B. I was surprised to find the program such good value, and the performer collector cards are an inspired idea!)

Special mention must go to the utterly spectacular band: Bec Matthews’ drumming was a highlight, MD Carl Polke was extraordinary on every instrument he picked up, and Ania Reynolds at the piano was both completely charismatic and remarkably skilled.

However, well-deserved crowd favourite was MC Ghenoa Gela, whose glorious stage presence and natural charm were simply palpable. The show’s loose theme of searching for the ultimate Australian song is both clumsy and unsuccessful: indeed, the violence and bitterness of some satirical lyrics seemed unpleasantly incongruous in what is otherwise such a family-oriented and jubilant celebration of our indigenous heritage, multiculturalism and shared artistic culture. However, the lovely ‘fruit salad’ metaphor that spoke so meaningfully and beautifully about cultural identity and difference (and related so poignantly to the real sense of family within this company, and the eclectic nature of the show itself) was superb, and with Ghenoa’s warmth and easy empathy, I hope it is this narrative theme that will be developed to cement this dynamic and diverse production.

With their ‘fruit salad’ audience also of families, elders, politicians, outrageously-costumed students and couples on dates, perhaps the greatest praise to offer From the Ground Up was the vigorous cheering and clapping, and the infectious, uncontrollable laughter of little kids throughout. It’s an earthy, jokey, raw, thrilling, touching, and triumphantly Australian show – and everything I thought circuses had forgotten how to be. Loved it!

Melbourne dates: June 20, 2012 to July 15, 2012

Click HERE for tickets and show information