Photo – Ponch Hawkes
Michael Dalley is well-known in the cabaret scene for having a sure aim for the jugular when it comes to musical satire. His excrutiatingly funny lyrics expose the vanities and values of whichever unfortunate luvvies happen to be under his scalpel ... He is fondy remembered by this reviewer for the show Intimate Apparel, a scorchingly funny take on performance art, seen several years ago at (the now defunct) Dante's. If you want to have a good laugh at yourself and everyone you know then go and see Urban Display Suite, a cabaret which says it all when it comes to real estate and the housing boom blighting our town.
Melbourne house prices are preposterous and so are the people involved in keeping the bubble aloft. With an opening song like Real Estate: The White Collar Job for the Blue Collar Brain, rest assured no-one will be spared the sarcasm treatment. Lyall Brooks, especially, is a big, believable presence as a smarmy estate agent; in fact the cast (Michael Dalley, Sharon Davis and Gabrielle Quin) all inhabit their caricatured (but so truthful!) estate agent characters beautifully. The lifestyle accoutrements and trends in magazine style interior decorating we think make us so unique are pitilessly lampooned in song; my favourite being Shit Art of the Mornington Peninsula.
There is something quite raw about the acoustics at fortyfivedownstairs, each sung note seeming to reverberate for a tad longer than usual, nice for the hard of hearing, awfully exposing for anyone singing. Musically the show holds up, the cast acquit themselves nicely with much verve and slickness, with just a set of keyboards accompanying the very funny songs. The show is fortunate to have the inspired John Thorne on board as musical director and composer. The wonderful warehouse environment of the venue itself is a reminder that this is one historical space that's escaped being commandeered for inner city apartments.
The hilarity is maintained throughout, with sexy talk around having gotten into the market before the boom and dinner parties where the conversation disappointingly doesn't touch on house prices, although in the middle the show veers off into a more general attack on Melbournian middle-classness rather than real estate per se, it maintains the pace and polish ; the song It's A Terrible School but the Grounds are Stunning, is one example. Dalley might have been better off having a go at the 'buying into neighbourhoods with the best state school syndrome' which has also contributed to the inflated property values in Melbourne. The nouveau riche are an easy target and 'money can't buy taste' is a well-worn theme but the world of real estate here was well-overdue for a blasting. Urban Dispay Suite is right on the money, as they say. At last someone is having a real go at the noxious overgrown funghus infesting the foundations of wealth in Melbourne. Not that anything will change but hey, you've gotta laugh, even when you can't afford to live in a building. Fabulous!
High Performance Company presents
Urban Display Suite
by Michael Dalley
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 3 May 11 – Sun 15 May, 2011
Times: Tue – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6pm
Duration: 1 hour
Tickets: Full $28, Conc $23
Bookings: 03 9662 9966 | www.fortyfivedownstairs.com