Certain productions in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival have raised eyebrows and left people pondering just what cabaret really is; simple enough to quote Sally Bowles from 'Cabaret' and say "Life is a cabaret old chum," but somehow the links between an underdog being crushed under the foot of a murderous regime, irony and the need for outsiders to have their say, seems to get overshadowed by the notion of all singing all dancing girls in tights and boys in bow ties or vice versa.
One show that combined elements of irony, the underdog and singing was the 'cabaret edition' of Jack Charles Vs The Crown introduced after a 'welcome to country' by Director Rachael Maza. Here on the stage for two shows only was a true work of Australian cabaret – not the full multi-media production but an unplugged walk through what looks to be a much bigger production that traces the many faceted life of actor/singer Jack Charles.
To break it down, the irony was palpable in the venue with grey haired white folk (self included) sitting cabaret style at tables, crammed in without an inch on either side to move, and Mr Charles positioned with his cue sheet on stage accompanied by a select trio of outstanding musicians.
Mr Charles seemed in his element, probably feeling free as a bird, regal as a king, given his history of being a member of the indigenous Australian race many of whom were stolen from their family in a misguided attempt to breed the savage out of them and their peers, not to mention twenty or so years he spent in gaol for robbing the rich. His stories and songs were presented with aplomb. The trials and tribulations were never peppered with bitterness or distaste; in fact he made people laugh a lot and it didn't seem to be out of nervousness.
This is a fellow who used to break enter and steal, and usually the most up market high end stuff, so he could either give it away or sell it on for a few dollars. His songs were all covers from the last century, well loved by the audience. His deep resonant voice roared in a gentle way as he sang.
His battles in the courts were only touched on, and there were no film clips from the various television shows or movies he has featured in, but maybe, if we are lucky, the whole show will one day tour to Adelaide for a proper season.
So rich in content and spirit was this show that I can only imagine how moving the whole production must be. Even in this edited version it was easy to see why it has consistently been lauded as a wonderful production celebrating a truly outstanding Australian performer.
ILBIJERRI Theatre Company presents
Jack Charles V The Crown
Music from the stage production
Original production written by John Romeril and Jack Charles
Directed by Rachael Maza
Venue: Space Theatre
Date: 23 June 2012
Tickets: $49.90 – $39.90