Left – Ruth Wilkin. Photo – Julian Dolman
Ruth Wilkin brings her award-winning cabaret show Just a Little Something I've Been Working On Downstairs at the Maj for their Cabaret Soirée season. Wilkin has devised the show with Trevor Jones as co-musical director, who accompanies her on piano. Billed as a "tongue-in-cheek look at cabaret and its performers in the style of Chris Lilley and Tina Fey," I was hoping for a bitingly funny satire of the cabaret genre, but it was more like a gently irreverent ribbing.
Wilkin appeared costumed in a black strapless maxi dress, which she glammed up with a tacky rhinestone brooch and a pair of putrid golden gloves. This might have passed for a sincere attempt at evening wear, had it not been for the little hanger straps not-so-subtly sticking out from the back of her dress, which were a dead giveaway. She kept tugging at the top of her dress to avoid slippage; this could have very easily turned burlesque had she not been so constantly vigilant about it.
Through the course of the show, she explains her metamorphosis into cabaret star, tracing her roots from small-town small-time performer who writes songs for her mother's primary school students on her brother's keyboard, past failed audition attempts, and up to the point where she decided to take her career in her own hands and "put on a cabaret instead." She describes the journey with lots of quirky anecdotes, posing and posturing, false starts, and self-deprecation.
Ruth actually has a lovely ingenue vocal style and appearance, and the songs she has written befit her voice and look; some are a parody of that style of song, some are slightly more sincere. In fact, the show itself floats somewhere between sincere and satirical, so that we get the feeling that she actually loves cabaret just as much as she finds it funny. She points out its ridiculousness without putting it down, she pokes fun of herself without appearing bitter. She also has a kind of stand-up comic delivery, ostensibly due to her professed love for Tina Fey; there's a lot more resemblance to a comedy routine than there is to a cabaret show.
I'd love to describe some of the funny material she's come up with, but that would ruin the surprise for readers who haven't yet seen the show. I'm sure Wilkin and Jones will keep traveling with this great little show, so I'll just mention some things to look out for: a tic-tac, "Everybody Loves Peanuts", a letter to George Lucas, dancing Storm Troopers, the ukulele song, and her childhood friend Randall.
Just a Little Something will delight cabaret fans as well as those who have a slightly more cynical opinion of the genre. It's a lighthearted and good-natured poke at the world of cabaret.
Perth Theatre Trust presents
JUST A LITTLE SOMETHING I’VE BEEN WORKING ON
by Ruth Wilkin
Director Ruth Wilkin
Venue: His Majesty's Theatre | 825 Hay Street, Perth WA
Dates: 26 – 28 September, 2013
Tickets: $53 - $33