The great thing for audiences is that when Cabaret Festivals are programmed close to each other, shows have a ideal opportunity to tour and reach their followers. Adelaide's huge Cabaret Festival ended last weekend, and Melbourne's growing one opened this week. Reviewing the Situation is travelling that circuit and landed at Chapel off Chapel for a few nights.
Writer/Performer Phil Scott and director Terence O'Connell have created a piece that is both dramatic and filled with the music of English composer/lyricist Lionel Bart. Set in a dingy flat, where Lionel ended up broke and an alcoholic, Scott, in character as Bart, looks back at his huge successes (he wrote Oliver! the musical, in addition to hit songs for Cliff Richard (Living Doll) and even a Bond movie theme – From Russia With Love), as well as the failures and downward spiral of a once-successful man.
On a fairly bare stage, a man, a grand piano, a small table and chair, with a bottle of alcohol and a glass are the only props. And this is all that is needed, in this touching, often funny account of the life of Britain's famous music talent.
Certainly is his heyday, the swinging 60s, Bart was a huge success once Oliver! opened. Not only was he in great demand, his celebrity friends included Noel Coward, Judy Garland and our own Barry Humphries. Friends and hangers-on partied in his plush Chelsea pad, commonly known as the 'Fun Palace'.
Scott and O'Connell have managed to include a number of delightful anecdotes and supposed conversations with these and other theatrical and film 'names'.
But also fascinating are the many stories behind the songs and the lyrics. And of course the dreadful mess that was Twang! (a musical about Robin Hood), which resulted in one of the worst decisions made by Bart – to sell the rights to Oliver!
Phil Scott has been performing for some time, and his experience shows here, both in his musical ability and in his comic timing and story-tellng. You don't need to be aware of Lionel Bart to be drawn in and to enjoy this show. There are a number of familiar tunes sprinkled throughout the evening – none more poignant than Scott's interpretation of As Long As He Needs Me.
Terence O'Connell manages to keep everything moving at a steady pace. At just an hour, there are no dull moments. In all, Reviewing the Situation is a fine tribute to a lost talent.
2015 Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Reviewing the Situation
Director Terence O'Connell
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran
Dates: 24 – 25 June 2015