Photo – Brigitta Scholz
The day Meena Nathan arrived in Australia, was the day Elvis Presley died. Both these events, we are told, were equally shocking.
In the semi-biographical semi-fictional play Long Live The King, Ansuya Nathan takes us from her parents’ first date in a café in India that only plays Elvis music, to their immigration to Adelaide in the late 70s, through to the birth and first few months of raising a child. Unlike most productions playing in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Nathan’s show is primarily monologue and not song. Punctuated with a sound design featuring snippets of Elvis and singing a couple of songs, the show rests on the narrative and Nathan’s ability to shift between characters in everything from accent and vocal inflictions, to stance and smile, to a pregnant belly for Meena.
Directed by Guy Materson, Long Live The King is a personal story of Nathan’s parents’ relationship, a story of an encompassing love for an artist, and the story of immigration from India to Australia. Elvis’s death becomes just the background to the story of starting a new life in a new country, pregnant, and without your family. Nathan’s story is touching, genuinely humorous, and deftly performed.
In addition to the intrigue which is this particular tale, it is so fantastic to be seeing shows on stage which are about Adelaide, but aren’t necessarily of a culture that we all know. I think it’s so important to have different stories told on stage, and I’m glad the Festival has embraced Nathan’s story.
However, during the second performance at the Festival, there were many sound problems. Nathan’s face-microphone was emitting a fuzzy white noise through the speakers for the first section of the show, nearly covering the dialogue. When the microphone was eventually cut, people towards the rear of the long and narrow ArtSpace had to strain to hear some of the lines. In another section Nathan’s hand-held microphone, used when impersonating Elvis, wasn’t turned on until a few lines in to the song. It is disappointing, particularly at an event with the reputation of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, that an otherwise intriguing show and moving performance could be let down by so many sound issues.
Before going in to the show, I was introduced to the real Meena, who gave me this advice: never tell your children anything. While I think it may have to be advice I follow, I am certainly glad Meena didn’t, for otherwise we wouldn’t have this show and Nathan’s heartfelt performance.
2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Long Live The King
Directed by Guy Masterson
Dates: 11 – 12 June, 2011
Times: 3:15pm & 6:30pm (11), 3:00pm & 6:00pm (12)
Duration: 1 Hour
Tickets: $29.00 – $19.95