Ms Bennett has strenuously resisted ‘reverting to type’, in the eyes of others (and on more than one front), as conscientiously as she’s resisted wearing a dress. When she emerges, for her final to Show Us Your Tiddas!, in the glitziest, most glamourous possible version of that reviled garment, she completes a circle, which started with a starry-eyed, sexually naïve girl, in Echuca, singing solo and in her uncles’ band.
The Yorta Yorta woman is not only black, but gay, out, loud and proud, conforming to none of the expectations and clichés we’ve built around those identities: she’s her own woman, entirely. And she’s re-emerged, with gusto, following the demise, after 10 hard-sloggin’ years, of (The) Tiddas, the sweet-sounding folk trio she co-founded, with Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders, circa 1990. It’s been going on a decade since their international career drew to a close, with a culminating gig at the late, lamented Continental, in Prahran.
Tiddas were sisters, as the Aboriginal word denotes, in more ways than one (’though from different tribes): Saunders from Portland's Gunditjmara mob and Dastey from West Heidelberg (with something of a detour via the Scottish highlands, but that’s another story); anyone who ever had the delirious pleasure of hearing them, especially live, would realise the depth of their soul sisterhood, apart from the indigenous one.
Ironically, they met as backing singers for another Aboriginal band, Djaambi, which means brother; led by Saunders' illustrious brother, the actor, playwright and singer, Richard Frankland. From that moment they were both fated and feted; they and others, not least Bennett’s aunties, were astounded by their uncannily honeyed harmonies.
They went (as one of their early songs alludes) from being a veritable all-singing ‘kitchen cabinet’ (or, perhaps, cabaret) to being an ARIA & Deadly award-winning touring posse, singing delectable, truthful, achingly authentic songs of love, life and dissent; sharing stages with the likes of Geldof, Bragg (a fan), Roach and Midnight Oil.
Hard to imagine such an act would pull the kind of boofheaded element that’d crow, to only their amusement, witless derogatives, like ‘show us your tiddas!’, but at least the yobbocism yielded an aptly-named live album and this extraordinary show, penned by Bennett herself, at the behest of Andrea James, her dramaturg; a major undertaking, by her own admission.
With it, she takes us on an extraordinary and enchanted journey through her life so far. By her own account, scripting was an entirely organic, almost stream-of-consciousness process, with few, if any, preconceptions. Happily, potent themes presented themselves and, without, thankfully, being in any way didactic there are lessons to be taken from Lou’s life. Unsurprisingly, strong and palpable spirit pervades the show: this and her charmingly rendered stories provides the spine; her songs and one or two well-chosen covers, the flesh.
There are moments of, by all appearances, genuine tears, on stage and, I, for one, can attest, off. Prodigiously talented multimedia goddess, Rachel Maza, as director, hasn’t let a single nuance slip beyond Bennett’s clearly considerable grasp of theatre.
The show transcends Tiddas; pivotal as that episode might’ve been in Bennett’s travels down the superhighway. Consequently, it reaches far, beyond being misogynistically, narrowly and inaccurately branded as ‘proactive’, ‘activist’, ‘feminist’, ‘pro-lesbian’ (despite Tiddas’ notable range and Bennett being their only gay member). We are taken through the trials of rural upbringing; the realisation of difference, destiny and self-love.
In the end, it’s a wholly moving and inspiring experience.
As her tough-loving mum once said, ‘once a song woman, always a song woman’. And how. If only her mother could see her now, for Cin, Cindy (Lou) Bennett, has become and is still becoming so very much more.
Full marks, too, to Lou’s new band, the Sweet Cheeks, comprising percussionist, singer and performer, Phil Collings (whose reputation precedes, having worked, including internationally, with big fish, like Kim Salmon) and bassist, singer, performer, composer and former cow-punk, Alics Gate-Eastley, who provided a supportive and sympathetic backdrop. Don Lane’s old dance partner, as it were, in Tony Bartuccio, deserves similar accolades, as choreographer.
Show us Ya Tiddas!
Venue: Performance Space @ CarriageWorks | 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Dates/Times: Sat 16 & Sun 17 Feb @ 8pm
Tickets: $25/$20/$15 + BF*
Bookings: moshtix.com.au, 1300 438 849, or moshtix outlets