|Young, Hard and Solo | iOTA|
|Written by Nick Spunde|
|Friday, 20 January 2012 19:07|
Photo – Prudence Upton
As a Melburnian, I have a confession to make. When I see a show by a Sydney artist, I often find myself analysing it for elements which could be considered “Sydney-ish”, looking for devices or conventions that might distinguish the art of this city from that of my hometown. Seeing cabaret star iOTA perform is for me like having the Spirit of Sydney embodied on stage. He is outrageous, brash, glamorous and deliriously camp. Whether you think that’s genuinely Sydney-ish or just my southern preconceptions, he is definitely a whole lotta fun.
iOTA – real name unknown – seems to have shot into the public consciousness in the past five years with lead roles in musicals such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, earning himself a Helpmann Award in the process. Performing at the Opera House, where the Playhouse Theatre seems barely large enough to contain him, iOTA has stepped out from performing in musicals and ensemble cabaret acts with his own headline show Young, Hard and Solo.
From the moment he is carried onto stage, lolling in the arms of a masked gimp, you can see where the sense of humour for the night is going to be pitched. From the moment he lets loose his pipes on Do Re Mi’s Man Overboard, you know what a prodigious vocal talent he possesses.
He delivers a varied mix of songs – covers, originals and musical numbers – ranging from the silly to the soulful to the downright dirty. iOTA seems to have a voice perfect for every occasion, whether he is grinding out blues, doing a dusky drag falsetto homage to a jazz diva, imitating Fred Schneider from the B52s or strumming at the heart strings with a ballad. In between tracks he plays the cabaret ringmaster with an air of jaded decadence. His humour is broad and sexual, laced with innunendo and the occassional athletically simulated sex act.
iOTA often shows flashes of self parody, commenting on his own campness or undercutting a sentimental moment with a joke, as if wary about letting vulnerability show through his outrageous exterior. Despite this, his sentimental songs are among his best, his voice able to achieve an aching intensity that transcends the trash-tastic trappings he surrounds himself with.
Young, Hard and Solo is in some ways a retrospective, incorporating tracks from past shows and old albums, along with some call-back jokes for his established fan base, so to make sense of it all it would help to be familiar with iOTA’s past work. Not that a show that climaxes with a chorus line including a gimp and a man in a rabbit suit is really asking to be made sense of. It aims to be enjoyed and the audience certainly do, giving a spontaneous standing ovation and hooting up a storm. iOTA may be “so Sydney” but there is a sense of the unstoppable force about him, a raging talent that no one city is enough to hold.
Sydney Festival 2012
Young, Hard and Solo
Venue: Playhouse | Sydney Opera House, East Circular Quay
Dates: 17 – 21, 2012
Tickets: $55 – $50
Bookings: this event is sold out