Never having been to or seen a show at The Butterfly Club, the experience of attending the venue was an experience in itself. A small, yet obviously theatrical building on Bank Street in South Melbourne (the coloured fairy lights said it all), The Butterfly Club harks back to the burlesque and cabaret clubs of the Victorian era. Behind the bright lights and red velvet, a mishmash of eclectic kitsch clutter fills every crack and crevice. Brightly coloured oversized paper cocktail umbrellas, luxuriously thick textured carpets, rich red walls glowing beneath warm lamplight, perfectly painted geishas, a red hot Mercedes, a scuba-diving adventure, faded plastic dolls staring blankly, a shipwreck, worn old books beside worn old men – loudly exchanging salacious gossip (something about a well-known identity and a dominatrix): The Butterfly Club was neither what I had imagined or expected.
Entering the ‘show room’, the intrigue and uniqueness of the experience continued as B ‘n B (Bob Sedergreen and Bridgette Allen) took to the stage. Best described as intimate, the space provides the perfect cabaret setting.
Bob began the evening by casually introducing himself, setting his tone for the evening, and beginning the somewhat unrehearsed but personable banter to engage the small and rather wine-soaked audience. Bob’s experience and skill on the piano was immediately evident as he illustrated, with great enthusiasm, various styles of jazz from Dave Brubeck to Thelonious Monk. Recent winner of the Don Banks Music Award (Australia’s highest award for musicians), Bob improvised effortlessly throughout the night; supporting Bridgette skilfully, despite her often disconnected performance.
Bridgette’s performance provided glimpses of a seasoned jazz artist. But, in spite of her mellow husky voice – characteristic of many great jazz singers – Bridgette’s performance seemed unpolished and at times unrehearsed. In particular, her frequent glances at what must have been the scripted patter and the scored music and lyrics, detracted from her performance. Repeated name droppings invited unfavourable comparisons with distinguished jazz vocalists such as Carmen McRae. A highlight of Bridgette’s performance, however, was Round Midnight, a jazz standard by Thelonious Monk, in which she created a powerful evocation of dissipation and despair.
Included in the performance program was a selection of Bob’s original compositions – enjoyed by the audience comprised almost entirely of youths of the 1960s and ‘70s; the compositions, in particular, Don’t Talk, emphasised the era in which the music was written. Don’t Talk, described by Bob as a protest song, protested against increasing rules and regulations, such as not being allowed to drink and drive. The highlight of the night, however was another original composition, Why, dealing with issues of discrimination and reconciliation. This piece, performed by piano and voice, and - most bizarrely - inexpertly played clapsticks, evoked visions of Chris Lilley’s character Ricky Wong in Indigeridoo.
The strange ambience of the cosily cramped cabaret club together with the at times shambolic entertainment combined to create an extraordinary experience – one not likely to be forgotten.
B ’n B | BOB & BRIDGETTE
Venue: The Butterfly Club | 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne
Dates: Thursday 24 to Saturday 26 July
Times: all shows at 9.00 pm
Tickets: $25 full / $20 concession and for groups of 8 or more
Duration: one hour approx