Tag: Shanon Whitelock

Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2016: DEATH SUITS YOU

Blithely black humour prevails

By Myron My

Everyone has moments when they feel underappreciated and ignored at work and frustrated with their overall work/life balance, but none more so than Death. This is someone who meticulously plans how each and every mortal will meet their ultimate demise, and then needs to ensure our own stupidity or actions do not interfere with these plans. Death must watch over us all the time, even when we are sleeping. In this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival show Death Suits You, this hardworking individual recalls some of his finer achievements and attempts to have us understand the complexities of his role.

Death Suits You

Sam Hooper as Death is a charming and charismatic performer, even if this version of Death is simply dressed in plain black shorts and a t-shirt. Perhaps this is part of Death’s plan: to appear as “one of us” and subsequently let our guard down and allow ourselves to see things from his perspective, no matter how macabre it might be. Hooper has written some great individual tales to share and despite knowing that it will not be a happy ending, the build-up and visual language he uses has the stories running through our minds as vividly as a movie.

With each narrative, Hooper has an accompanying performance piece, and the beauty of this is that it is not just song, but also dance and spoken word, which leave the audience wondering how he will interpret the next victim’s inner feelings and sadness. Hooper tailors these perfectly and the touching dance routine during his drowning victim’s tale is equally meditative and unsettling. Likewise, Hooper’s careful diction with the spoken word pieces clearly brings out the attitudes and feelings of those who are facing mortality, and are performed with strong conviction.

Despite the necessary gloom and doom theme of the show, such as Death’s retelling of poor 6-year-old Eva’s end, Hooper ensures that the audience is never left despondent. The show is littered with clever and witty laughs, such as Death’s admission that he controls the weather to create a dramatic exit for people, or how his work is a great method of population control.

Robert Tripolino‘s music is the perfect accompaniment to the stories and, in the face of Death, is effortlessly brought to life by the two-piece multi-instrumentalist band of Shanon Whitelock and Caleb Garfinkel, providing strong support to Hooper. The simple lighting throughout the show is also used well in creating the various moods and scenarios that Hooper describes.

Sadly, as with many cabaret shows during the Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Death Suits You only has a three-night run which ends on Sunday so best head off and see this show soon, before Death decides to pay you a visit instead.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran 
Season: until 19 June| 8.45pm
Tickets: $37 Full | $33 Conc 
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

REVIEW: Bette & Joan:Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore.

Fresh and fun, with the potential for more

By Myron My

These days, you just need to look at a cover of a magazine or access a website to be bombarded with Hollywood stories and gossip. Some might say it’s the price to pay for being in the industry, however in Bette & Joan: Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore., writer and performer David Morris explores how this type of reporting is predominantly focused on women and how not much has actually changed since Hollywood’s golden era.

Bette & Joan.jpg

As she sneaks into her bedroom to escape a dreary party, Bette Davis (Morris) comes to find the real party is in her bedroom, as she finds thirty audience members in there. She begins to reminisce about her life and the lost loves she has encountered. Of course, one such as Davis cannot reminisce about her Hollywood life without an appearance by her infamous arch-nemesis Joan Crawford, brilliantly played by Tom Halls. Having two gay men portray these immortal Hollywood stars is an effective and clever idea in reminding the audience of the fact that men who behave in this way are rarely scrutinised or expected to justify themselves to anyone.

Accompanied by pianist Shanon Whitelock, the musical numbers are highly enjoyable with the title track “Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore.” perfectly displaying the tension between the two actors. The re-imagining of popular iconic tracks such as “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa are a great way of having them express their own sexuality and their own desires rather than playing to the male gaze.

While the narrative touches on the struggles these women faced in order to make it in Hollywood, I feel more thought was required on how to tell this complex story. Some moments, such as when Bette is recalling her failed marriages, ultimately add very little to the overall direction of the show, and seem to be forgotten about as quickly as they are brought up. The finale unfortunately also doesn’t seem to add anything of substance to the profound themes being explored, and cutting it in length would have kept the story tighter and more focused.

Despite the emotional turmoil and sacrifices Bette had to endure in order to be considered “as good as” and “as talented as” men, for me the extravagant and somewhat over-the-top way that Morris plays Bette doesn’t quite correlate with the more subtle emotional impact of what is being said. Similarly, the dialogue between Bette and Joan when they question the way they were treated in Hollywood feels rather forced and doesn’t ring with conviction over what is being said.

Bette & Joan: Bitch. Slut. Liar Whore is a distinctly enjoyable show with great music and quite a few laughs, that is admirably attempting to depict the struggles that these female stars faced in the golden age of Hollywood. Had there been a deeper look at how this really affected them though, I feel sure the show could then have created something even more telling of gender, sexuality and celebrity antagonism in the society they lived in then, and the one we live in now.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Season: Until 7 February | Fri, Sun 8.30pm, Sat 10.15pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

Image by Luke Warm


Talk-show queen becomes cabaret goddess

By Kate Boston Smith

Rachel Dunham is a power-house of the Melbourne musical theatre scene and her show Oprahfication, written and composed with the incredible Shanon Whitelock and directed by Dirk Hoult, showcases the extent of her unbridled talent.


From the moment she takes the stage, accompanied by Whitelock on keys and a full band, Dunham has the audience in the palm of her hand.  The atmosphere was electric and charged by Dunham’s impeccable transformation into America’s leading lady of the small screen, Oprah Winfrey.  Dunham has Oprah’s mannerisms, quips and throwaway lines down pat and utilizes all possible impro moments with the audience without missing a beat.

The story plays out like biography, so even the few who do not know much about America’s first black billionaire will leave with a firm understanding of how and why people adore this remarkable talk-show host.  Touching on her relationship with her best friend Gale, her love for life partner Stedman and of course her ever-expanding and contracting waistline, Whitelock and Dunham have created a show with monumental LOLs and genuine heart-felt moments.

Having not had the pleasure of being in a recording studio audience with the tv queen herself, Oprahfication is the perfect artificial simulation. Complete with faceless producer bringing us in and out of ad breaks we see change from on-camera Oprah to off-camera Oprah, and we are shown the vulnerability beneath her all-conquering façade.

The show is all original music that evokes the drama, passion and hype one would associate with Oprah herself.  Dunham heads fearlessly into the aisles clapping and singing, with her adoring audience joining in when ever possible.  A truly spectacular moment was during the huge closing number where, in a music break, the audience took over the show chanting in full voice “Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!”.  It took several moments before Dunham could take back the stage and close the show with one of the greatest numbers you could hope to hear in a cabaret show like this.

Oprahfication is amazing: it left this reviewer literally weak at the knees. Get to this show as soon as you can.

This season of Oprahfication took place on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June
 at 7pm for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2013

REVIEW: Short+Sweet Cabaret 2012

Variety was never so sweet!

By Myron My

Short+Sweet is the biggest little arts festival in the world that celebrates ten-minute performances in theatre, cabaret and dance. Crammed into 19 days, there are roughly 100 original works performed. As with any variety show though, there are going to be some performances that are significantly stronger than others.

Short+Sweet Cabaret

My top choice of the Group A performances for the Short+Sweet Cabaret Festival would therefore be Good Grief performed by Sarah Gaul and Sophie Wright. There was obvious rapport between the two as they played thespian ‘frenemies‘ who are looking at building on their repertoire of tragedy to become better actors. Both women have great voices and songs that had the audience in stitches with laughter.

Another highlight was Amanda Buckley in Haley Burton: Ready to Role: her charming nature made the crowd warm to her immediately in this semi-improvised cabaret of a high-achieving understudy.

Quite possibly one of the last things I expected to ever see in cabaret would be a show about Oprah Winfrey but it happened at Short+Sweet with Oprahfication…the ULTIMATE interview. As Opraaaaaaaaah! Rachel Dunham’s resemblance was uncanny and her portrayal throughout of this talk show queen was spot on.

Each ten-minute cabaret also had some very talented musicians, be it pianists, drummers or guitarists. There were a few that stayed in my mind after the shows were completed so my mentions would have to go A Very Kitty Christmas’ Barnaby Reither, A Little bit of Little Pattie’s Cameron Thomas and Oprahfication…’s Shanon Whitelock.

The mind boggles in choosing what to see and that’s the great thing about Short+Sweet, having such a diverse range of ideas and concepts. There are many different stories to be told and all are created with passion and dedication.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street  Prahran

Season: Until 8 December | various times

Tickets: From $25

Bookings: http://www.shortandsweet.org