What an extraordinary mix of people I remarked to my companion as we sat down at a table in the tiny downstairs room that is for the Fringe, The King’s Lair. The reference being to Ivan King who manages His Majesty’s Museum of Performing Arts. The museum has been expanded from a one room beautifully curated space along an adjoining subterranean hallway with picture and posters of early Australian theatre.
The reason for the audience diversity became apparent when Grace King burst through a paper poster and onto the stage, with assistance. She is blind – as were a number of audience members, one with a handsome black Labrador guide dog. There was also a largish contingent of audience members wearing hearing aids and making use of the assisted hearing devices distributed by the theatre staff for the show.
Mezzo-soprano King has a fabulous voice and a superb vocal range. She was accompanied and supported by the delightful Fergus Deasey. He is a terrific key board player who in his past musical career was part of both Eskimo Joe and Little Birdy and is a gold record winner.
The show is about love, an intimate musical journey. Friends searching for love. Some in the right places others not so successful.
I admired the choice of material in this show. There were no soppy clichés here, simply interesting numbers that were introduced with a quick salute to their writers and original performers. Us by Regina Spektor was a good example and let King Soar and swoop through a huge range of lovely notes. It was, she noted, “the perfect 4 minute warm-up.” I’m Sticking with You was attributed to the Velvet Underground and featured fairground merry-go-round piano backing. A Little Birdie song Better Off Alone lead to King’s brief soliloquy on the perils of marriage at the 6 month mark, followed by another Spektor composition No One’s Got it All. Repetitive as the lyrics were King’s enunciation here was a bit difficult to comprehend.
A Mettalica number Nothing Else Matters was given a lovely arrangement and the words were meaningful. You Got the Love, a Florence and the Machine number was beautifully handled musically but I couldn’t understand the necessity for the rap insert by Chelsea Gibson. It was supposed to provide local Fringe references, but for me it didn’t add anything.
This was in a way a workshop performance, the Sunday Afternoon Collective is a small group working together on the said day. And as King said they are hoping to get grant money to work on developing the show.
It was great to hear such a terrific voice and the potential it holds. Unsurprisingly, Deasey is more relaxed and funny onstage.
The encore was a beautiful version of U2’s Every Breaking Wave. A really fine final duet by King and Deasey.
Sunday Afternoon Collective presents
Playtime with Grace and Fergus
Venue: King's Lair at His Majesty's Theatre | 825 Hay Street, Perth CBD, WA
Dates: 31 January – 2 February 2019