I'm really not comfortable writing this review because I left not just with mixed feelings, but with such mixed feelings.
To begin with, these feelings were excitement and happiness, because although I had not come across cabaret performer Claire Healy before, she took to the stage and blew us all away with her stunning talent. She has undeniable stage presence, obviously completely relaxed in front of an audience, she plays multiple instruments and has a delicious and powerful voice. And she sings in faultless French! Tres exotic.
She is funny and can swear like a frustrated tradie as she tells her stories in spoken word or song. She makes the audience take a Pledge Of Impurity, in which we pledge that we will not judge each others impure thoughts for the duration of the show. There is some very funny (and kind of weird) stuff about American Purity Pledges (thus our own Pledge Of Impurity), some funny vitriol aimed at Julie Andrews, some silly ballads about losing one's wallet and ex-boyfriends. Bicycle Face is funny and like much of the show takes a bit of a swipe at gender inequality. And again, goosebumps as Clair encourages us to sing along with her giving, as she put it, zero fucks. It's an opportunity to raise your voice and let it out, though the temptation is to sit back silently and listen because our host just does it so well.
So those mixed feelings I was talking about, you're probably wondering about those by now.
They started when Claire – obviously a fan of audience participation – wandered through the audience with a ukule (the sound of which I loathe almost as much as the piano accordian, and both of which I had spotted on stage upon entry). Giving us all a silly chorus to sing on cue, she turned her back on half the audience as she started to sing a song which was probably funny, but with her turned away from half of us and without a mic, I we could hardly hear a thing. The torrential rain on the Spiegeltent roof didn't help matters, but even without this, her voice simply wasn't carrying.
And it was this audience interaction/participation that I just found so awkward that it took the edge off the show for me. It struck me as filler that didn't really come off as well as hoped. Some people actually really do hate having a microphone thrust in their face with the expectation of coming up with something funny. Some of us – most, in reality – just aren't entertainers.
I know audience participation can work. I just think on this occasion, or with this performer, I'd much rather have just seen her do more of her own thing because she so good at it. And I know some people love their moments in the shared limelight; if you're one of those people, by all means go along and have a great time. If you're a repressed misery-head like me... yeah look go and see the show for the good bits because they really are fun. Just know what you're in for.
Hot Mess Productions presents
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent | 35 Johnston St, Collingwood VIC
Dates: 7 – 9 December 2017