Blak Cabaret is cabaret with a conscience: a lovely blend of drag, political satire (not gentle), and emotionally vast and soulful music by some of the best indigenous performers around, an utter legend or four, namely Deline Briscoe, Emma Donovan, Black Armband’s Bart Willoughby and Kutcha Edwards. Have the whole shebang presented by a drag queen who’s actually a queen (Kamahi Djordon King) and you’ve got a winning combination.
Producer Jason Tamiru conceived Blak Cabaret as a showcase for blak talent. If he’d left the show at just the music, audiences would have been more than happy, thrilled even. Yet the power in this show comes from its clear and comical appraisal of history married to the beating heart of the music – Blak Cabaret gives you a brilliantly funny take on the true history of Australia as well as the wonderful music. The whole thing hangs together extraordinarily well. Listen to heartbreaking and powerful songs delivered by luminaries of Australian music, enjoy the succinct satire of the tale of Queen Constantina Bush’s assumption of sovereignty over the land she promptly declares Terra Nullius and takes over, and you receive a glittering range of emotional and performative experiences in one show.
The variety of styles in Blak Cabaret, as it leaps around tone and approach, is huge. Queen Constantina Bush’s Australian of the Year speech is brilliant, hilarious and ever so pointed. The bold and funny text was written by Nakkiah Lui. Nikki Ashby strongly supports Bush as the much put upon servant/hack standing up for the truth and getting her own back at the end. She gives some nifty rap too.
The four musos and singers are all towering musical presences. Willoughby was last seen at the Malthouse Theatre as band leader for the stage production of the Shadow King. We got to hear Kutcha Edwards’s songs Mutti Mutti Man, Scars and Stand Strong in a wonderful finale. We heard Willoughby’s songs Stupid System, We Have Survived and Briscoe gave us her song Tree.
Tamiru said he wanted audiences to laugh, cry, think, and maybe feel a little uncomfortable. And even come away enlightened. He’s succeeded in bucket-loads – I took a recently arrived English friend who knew nothing of the real history of the colonization of Australia and she reckons she’s much better informed now. Let’s hope the show gets to tour nationally, with luck internationally, because everyone should see it, for all the right reasons. Greatly satisfying and moving entertainment.
Malthouse Theatre presents
Venue: Malthouse Theatre (forecourt)
Dates: 10 – 21 Feb, 2015
Tickets: $60 – $30
Part of the 2015 SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival