If it sounds like a rather bizarre combination – well, it certainly is that. Undine Francesca sings about wanting to be a deep-sea diver (a ditty that might have suited Annette Funicello or the Monkees) as though it’s Kurt Weill. Mikelangelo whistles soulfully into the microphone as his wife drapes herself anaemically over his shoulder – she attempts a bit of whistling but doesn’t really have the knack – or he’ll suddenly break into a bluesy guitar solo, indulging his enthusiasm to the point of breaking a string.
The joke is that these two iron curtain refugees are in love with American pop culture, from rock n’roll to B movies, but with little discernment. Undine Francesca sings of a 50 foot woman as someone else might sing of love and death, imbuing every daft word with naïve passion. Mikelangelo refers to himself as the ‘nightingale of the Adriatic’, while Undine Francesca is the ‘Pommerland Chanteuse of Discord’ and it’s a fish-out-of-water story as the duo plunges fearlessly into a world they don’t really understand – comedy in a similar vein to Borat. The difference here is that there’s a sincere appreciation for the culture that’s being parodied. The Honeymoon Suite is not so much an attack on various musical genres and kitsch aesthetics as a celebration of them and its sincerity is oddly touching.
But if this gag were the only thing on offer the show would run out of steam fairly quickly. Actually, as well as being very funny The Honeymoon Suite is effective as a serious and even dramatic musical experience. Backed by a impressive two-piece band calling themselves The Spectres of Love, the two singers have very different styles – with Mikelangelo being the more obviously professional of the pair – and there’s something compelling about the contrast, both musically and emotionally. There’s a touch of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in the duo – well, if Serge had been a lot more macho and Jane a lot stranger.
Best of all, some of the songs are really rather great – melancholic, moody, spooky even. And the lyrics are not always what you would expect. “Under the covers”, croons Undine Francesca slowly, recounting the story of her seduction of Mikelangelo, “You’re … under cover”. Well, quite. They sing of the ghosts of loves past, what’s left in those hundreds of honeymoon suites even after the “jacuzzi has been scrubbed”. Meanwhile, Undine Francesca plays a few tunes on her little melochord, studious as a young girl at her first Eisteddfod, and the musicians switch from instrument to instrument and back again.
The idea of being haunted by the remnants of loves long dead is poetically fertile, although perhaps the idea could be taken even further – the show’s loose storyline could be effectively developed into something with a stronger dramatic arc. This show has toured overseas but hasn't been seen widely in Australia – and it’s been recently reinvented somewhat with the addition of the band. Hopefully it will be around for some time to come. Don’t miss this weird and very entertaining experience.
On Invisible Wings & Hobart Summer Festival present
Mikelangelo and Undine Francesca in
The Honeymoon Suite
Venue: Peacock Theatre, Salamanca Arts Centre 77 Salamanca Place
Dates: Fri 28th – Sun 30th Dec at 8pm & Wed 2nd – Thurs 3rd Jan at 8pm
Cost: $17 / $12
Bookings: 6234 5998 | www.centertainment.com.au | RACT Insurance Customer Service Pavilion at The Taste of Tasmania | At the door