FOR three weeks in June, world renowned cabaret artists, cabaret lovers and new acts making their mark on the national cabaret stage will descend on the festival city of Adelaide for what has become the largest cabaret festival in the world.
This year’s event will also be the third and final festival to be artistically directed by iconic singer of soul, jazz and pop, the inimitable Kate Ceberano. Her tenure comes to an end and she will hand the baton on to international megastar Barry Humphries in 2015.
Since its inception almost twenty years ago, the cabaret festival has featured top line artists from all over the world. Overseas artists of the calibre of Bernadette Peters, Ben Vereen, Chita Rivera, Mary Wilson, Mandy Potemkin, Ute Lemper have been joined by Titans of Australian cabaret such as Meow Meow, Eddie Perfect, Debra Byrne, Troy Cassar-Daley, David Campbell, the previous festival director, and Marina Pryor.
Ceberano is proud of her achievements in raising the profile and participation in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. “I interpreted my role as placing emphasis on something that was important. I wanted to bang on about Australian cabaret and ask in what way are we relevant. When you look at great artists like Tim Minchin, Eddie Perfect or Meeow Meeow, you’re looking at how they’re really progressive and dominating this form of cabaret. Even in the earliest cabaret festivals we needed to create a genre that has merit and can have its own brand of superstars
Ceberano has recently published her autobiography, “I’m Talking”, co-written with Tom Gilling and taking its title from her funk band with whom she was the lead singer. In it she characterizes the cabaret artist as someone who hurtles into the unknown with no fear of consequence, pouring out their fears and dreams. As an example she refers to Chita Rivera, the legendary singer who starred in the film of West Side Story. She performed at David Campbell’s last festival. Ceberano is overwhelmed by the velocity and strength of Rivera’s personality. “The truth that she offered even though she’s just a woman who had a very critical accident and there she is on stage telling the story of being selected on Broadway by Stephen Sondheim and giving a life story which is like sliding doors. I was in tears. It’s an indomitable spirit this cabaret spirit and it can’t be relegated to badly sung Broadway songs or stages with velvet curtains. This is a very deliberate art form. There’s nothing accidental about it.”
Ceberano has recently published her autobiography, “I’m Talking”, co-written with Tom Gilling and taking its title from her funk band with whom she was the lead singer. In it she characterizes the cabaret artist as someone who hurtles into the unknown with no fear of consequence, pouring out their fears and dreams.
Gradually, a sense of Ceberano’s final cabaret festival begins to emerge. As well as the passion in her voice, there is the danger, the risk that an artist takes when they confront the unknown and the new. There is the excitement of the original, the daring and the powerfully engaging. It is entertainment in its purest form of seductive persuasion.
Audiences accustomed to the European or New York forms of cabaret may be surprised by the emerging trends that will be evident at Ceberano’s festival. Artists are introducing a new set of skills, including improvisation, comedy and stagecraft. “These are the rare people you have to see live" Ceberano says, "and feel the energy emanating off the stage to really see what drives a particular artist.” The cabaret artist is a product of the audience. They don’t turn on unless they’re turned on. .”
Ceberano refers to a quoyte by artist, Brett Whitely,. in “I’m Talking” “There is a point in all art where it’s as it should be, and then you need to corrupt it.” Ceberano explains “By doing that you’re driving reality into a hyper reality that is not of this world.
Meow Meow is a perfect embodiment of this principle. As a former Pina Bausch dancer she was required to demonstrate the highest kind of discipline and adherence to Bausch’s kind of principle. “Obviously she couldn’t be contained within an ensemble.” Ceberano says. She just can’t help it. She’s fearless. She’ll bodysurf across a crowd in fully structured sequined dress. That takes a lot of self-confidence about your body and the audience. I’m just gobsmacked. She takes my breath away.”
Ceberano lives and breathes her festival. Her effusive energy and enthusiasm is fuelled by her immersion in the festival. She can be seen mingling in foyers, asking audience’s their opinions as she wanders from table to table, running workshops with the young Class of Cabaret performers, who could well be the next generation of cabaret headliners, or performing with guest artists like Paul Grabowsky.
|The Raah Project|
This year she will be on the Festival Theatre stage with The Raah Project, the internationally and critically acclaimed purveyors of modern music encapsulating classical, jazz, hip hop, jungle, soul and electronics. So much for trying to pigeon-hole cabaret.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival, once again designed by and featuring an exhibition of works of prominent visual artist, David Bromley, will feature 470 international, national and local acts. Much of the charm of the festival is that it is contained chiefly within the many traditional and unconventional performance spaces within the Adelaide Festival Centre on the banks of the River Torrens. Performances are rarely longer than just over the hour, with the exception of The Raah Project, and audiences can see at least two performances a night if they wish, and even one during the day.
Only the electrifying Paul Capsis will be presenting his State Theatre Company show “Little Bird” as part of the Cabaret Festival outside the Festival Centre precinct at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide’s CBD across from the famed Adelaide Markets. An air of intimacy pervades the wintry event and many of the venues retain the traditional charm of the cosy, atmospheric cabaret venues.
|Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince|
Visitors to Adelaide will be able to immerse themselves in a banquet of rich cabaret fare. Headliners include Australian legends such as Anthony Warlow, performing with Broadway star Faith Prince; the fabulous Rhonda Burchmore; the Aria Award winning Perfect Tripod, David Campbell and Archie Roach. Over the years, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has hosted many of the top international performers, and this year is no exception. Robert Davi leaves his tough guy film roles behind him to croon his way into the songs of Rat Pack rogue Frank Sinatra. Popular Hollywood reporter Nelson Aspen arrives with a swag of gossip, songs and stand-up comedy. The UK’s The King’s Singers will perform the best of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Gershwin and many more of the American greats. One of the all-time greats, Darlene Love will be accompanied by a twelve piece band as she sings her classics, such as He’s A Rebel, The Boy I’m Going to Marry and Mountain High – River Deep. Beloved Hollywood comic actress, Kathy Najimy, will bring her solo show, Lift Up Your Skirt” to the Adelaide cabaret Festival.
And that’s just the tip of this cabaret iceberg. There’s a lot more beneath the surface, and for those who may miss some of the acts, they can catch surprises at the Backstage Club, hosted in turn by Ali McGregor, Libby Donovan and cabaret mad , bad and dangerous performer Mark Nadler (“I’m a cabaret performer, not a f****** role model”). But wait! There’s more. Free entertainment will also be provided with performances at the Festival Centre’s Piano Bar or while eating a range of foods at The Wintergarden.
I ask Ceberano what she believes has made the Adelaide Cabaret Festival such a success. “The answer’s Adelaide.” she replies, without a moment’s hesitation. “Adelaide is what’s so special about this. It’s a perfect arts culture really. The other reason why it works is that it’s winter and it’s an all in-house event. People come in and they stay there. We provide a whole entertainment as well as free entertainment and we have a captive audience and it’s pure. It can work as well as in any other country.” The festival culture in Adelaide is distilled.”
“One of the reasons I was so thrilled to pick up this festival, “ Ceberano goes on, “ and I am sure that Barry Humphries feels the same is that the history of cabaret is so delightful. You want to brand yourself with it. I did. .” Ceberano remembers the time when she was 18 and walked into the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. An enormous banner advertising a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition was the first form of marketing that she’d seen.Toulouse-Lautrec was making heroes of local people in the posters themselves, so basically it instructed anyone going in to be proprietorial. You own this place.”
Ceberano’s humility and generosity of spirit is immediately palpable. She pays tribute to the team that has brought her final festival to fruition. Visionary Father and Chairman of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Frank Ford AM, receives high praise. “What a guy! Frank’s one of the old guard and you know, let’s face it, he’s the person who holds all the keys. I think the new generation will take it in an entirely different place. There’s something so nostalgic about Frank.”
The things I have learnt doing this festival over the past three years have been life-changing. There’s a great beauty in being responsible for audiences and performing.” She is indebted to her team and producer Torben Brookman and Associate Producer Terri Dichiera.” I’ve seen the administration treat the artists like silkworms. Because of that I’ve seen the artists deliver so much more than they probably expected to deliver themselves. I love that. I’ve learnt how to look after artists. From watching a show I’ve just instinctively taken on board. A lot of what the artists are doing, and I’m incorporating a lot of that into my own work. I have been an audience member for a while instead of being on stage.”
Ceberano knows that her third and final festival will be very special. “We also know it’s bigger than Texas,” she says, “because Barry Humphries is coming too. This is a tribute to every arts person who’s been a part of the festival since the beginning. It’s a great idea and it will continue to find more and more relevance. It’s been an absolute success story since the start.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival
June 6 – 21 2014
Adelaide Festival Centre
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