One short evening with Emma Dean barely taps the surface of this gorgeous gothic pixie. I left the Tuxedo Cat feeling intrigued, delighted and with more than a bit of an artist crush.
Stripped is about removing superfluity, stripping down to the skeleton of this cabaret songstress’s art. She is left with a basic stage, a couple of costumes, and herself, replete with a stunning unitard. No backing band, no other performers, just her keyboard, body and voice.
And as we discover, absolutely nothing else is needed. Emma is the spirit of cabaret, every part of her body engaged in her music. It flows from her mouth and fingertips, ever morphing to create different characters and sounds, each song pushing the boundaries of the last. Her eyes enchant you, and watching her face for a full hour does not allow a heartbeat of disengagement. Her bare feet tell her stories, as does her strange way of sitting on a piano stool. Her energy is joyous, uninhibited and seemingly endless.
She takes us through four scenes from herself and her imagination, allowing us insight to the neuroses of a cabaret artist such as herself, leading us through heartbreak and subsequent heart failures, followed by a short introduction to collaboration and lastly, an explanation of her decision to run away to the circus, having found herself a social outcast.
For this performance, Emily Davis acted as MC-come-Intermission-Songstress, providing hilarious ukelele-supported song snippets to distract us through Emma’s onstage costume changes. In the collaborative scene, Emily brought out her guitar and Emma her violin to give us a new and delicious version of Tori Amos’ Cornflake Girl.
Musically, the show was a compilation of Emma’s own songs and others, ranging from the opener from the musical Cabaret, through Willy Wonka’s “Oompa Loompa” tunes to Smashing Pumpkins. Emma’s vocal range is impressive, and the timbre of her high notes bring a beautifully haunting quality to known tunes. She creates a unique character for every song, using her facial expressions, hands, arms, feet, and of course, those gorgeous eyes. Emma is a strikingly versatile and multi-talented performer, who embellishes her musical craft with a capturing stage presence and a real talent for creating the characters to brilliantly tell the stories in her music.
Take any chance to see this songstress. She bravely follows her artistic instincts, infusing her performances with her own distinct energy. Here’s hoping she finds herself back in Adelaide!
2011 Cabaret Fringe Festival
Venue: Tuxedo Cat | 131 King William Street
Date: 5 June 2011