Photos - Meaghan Smith
There was a warm glow around the cabaret stage for Lou Bennett on her opening night of Show Us Ya Tiddas! Family and friends were in abundance to support the woman who many know from her successful female band Tiddas. But as her first one-woman theatre show attests, Bennett is also a capable storyteller and performer, weaving music with yarns and bringing to life her personal history in an engaging and lively show. She is ably supported by her new band, The Sweet Cheeks - Phil Collings on drums and Alice Gate-Eastley on bass.
From the Yorta Yorta tribe and raised in Echuca, Bennett’s humble musical beginnings began when she received a Casio organ instead of the drums that she really wanted for her birthday. She later begged her uncles to teach her the guitar and she often performed with their band The Shades. In a great self-referential introduction, Bennett recreates her first public performance (a rendition of Tracey Chapman’s Fast Cars) in the trepidatious style she must have done it all those years ago as a nervous teenager making her pub debut amidst her excited and exuberant extended family.
Bennett takes us through stories of coming out to her family, moving to the big smoke Melbourne, her youthful wonder at the abundances of a lesbian bar and the travels of Tiddas to communities far and wide, from Thursday Island to New York City. She plays a range of characters, from relatives to American band promoters, and intersperses these vignettes with beautifully delivered songs, both new and old.
It’s a personal work – very cathartic, and one in which we see a clear journey of character. Autobiographical theatre pieces of this nature can easily slide into self-indulgence, but Show Us Ya Tiddas!, thankfully, does not take that route. Instead, with the help of director Rachael Maza and dramaturg Andrea James, Bennett keeps the stories tight and well-interwoven with music. Collings and Gate-Eastley pip up as various characters and use hats to suggest settings and characters. They are simple and effective techniques and suit the cabaret nature of the Show Us Ya Tiddas!
While this show is certainly going to appeal to Tiddas fans and people who can relate to Bennett’s experiences as either a gay or biracial individual looking for her place in the world, her story is one that will resonate in various ways with lots of different individuals. It is an honest, human work that is both straightforward and engaging. It delves into personal, political and psychological territory and ends up offering a celebratory and empowering message.
Melbourne Workers Theatre presents
Show us Ya Tiddas!
Written and performed by Lou Bennett
Venue: The Arts Centre BlackBox, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates: 16 May – June 2 (Previews 15 May @7pm)
Times: Tues to Sat @ 7pm; Matinees Sat 26 May and 2 June @ 2pm
Tickets: 28.50 full/18.50 Conc./$15 preview
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300136166 or www.ticketmaster.com.au
Show us Ya Tiddas! will tour to Queensland’s Dreaming Festival in June, 2007