Barry Humphries' "There Are No Rules" Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Adelaide Festival Centre. June 5 - 20, 2015
by Peter Wilkins
Adelaide’s internationally renowned cabaret festival has a new Captain and First Mate at the helm. Entertainment icon, Barry Humphries succeeds Kate Ceberano in the role of Artistic Director and at his side, Adelaide born and bred John Glenn assumes the position of Executive Producer ,vacated by Torben Brookman. Glenn is very aware of the fact that Humphries is the real headliner of the festival and it can be considered a real coup to lure him to Adelaide to direct the festival. Dame Edna Everage will feature at the opening variety night on June 6th and Humphries will close the festival with the teasingly titled Love Songs For Sir Les. Audiences are in for a treat of Humphries’ legendary serve of stinging satire with its lashing tail of laughter.
Executive Producer John Glenn
The festival’s programme design offers insight into Humphries’ theme for the 2015 festival. It shows Humphries conductor-like raising the curtain on an old deconstructed theatre. In selecting shows for the festival, Humphries and Glenn were keen to respect the origins of the cabaret movement and the idea that the old European theatres are falling apart. Humphries’ festival will restore the spirit of cabaret with a particular emphasis on comedy, Jazz and the cabaret of the Weimar era. However, Glenn is also quick to point out that the festival’s byline is “There are No Rules” and audiences can expect to be entertained by an eclectic selection of cabaret delights, both old and new as well as local, national and international. “Barry wanted to show how proud he is of the Australian performance scene as well”
“Barry wanted a strong balance and variety.” Glenn says. “He wanted jazz and comedy to feature quite strongly and he has a strong love of the Weimar period.” Highlights will reflect Humphries’ particular passions with the appearance of Adam Hills and his unique brand of comedy, the glorious sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Humphries together with the deliciously outrageous Meow Meow in His Master’s Choice, a tribute to the seedy, sleazy, saucy, sexy cabaret of Germany of the Twenties and Thirties.
Meow Meow in His Master's Choice
“That is one of the things I am most proud about with this festival”, Glenn says. “There’s no nights where you might think, “Oh, I think I’ll give that a miss.” I know what he means. I can only attend the festival for the final week, and peruse the programme with some regret that there are so many shows that I won’t be able to see, and even a couple that I shall have to miss during the time I am there. Every show holds the key to an hour or so of superb entertainment, and I find myself cramming as many as four shows into a single evening.
Bernadette Robinson in Pennsylvania Avenue
As in former years, the festival is housed within the precinct of the Adelaide Festival Centre, with the exception of Bernadette Robinson’s latest show, Pennsylvania Avenue, scripted by Joanna Murray Smith and directed by Simon Phillips. The show tells the story of Harper, the White House Entertainment Officer, who served under seven presidents and was responsible for programming the stars who performed for the various presidents. As with her former triumph, Songs For Nobodies, Robinson will impersonate the various performers at Her Majesty’s Theatre in central Adelaide. This is just one of the many “not to be missed” performances that will feature at the festival. Australia’s favourite comedian, composer, singer-songwriter, actor and showman,
Eddie Perfect in Songs From The Middle
Eddie Perfect returns to the Cabaret Festival with a contemporary song cycle about growing up in the “boring, mind-numbing suburb of Mentone” In Songs From The Middle Perfect does to Mentone what Humphries once did to Moonee Ponds. Audiences may expect a more serious Perfect, but they can rest assured that there will be laughs a plenty at Perfect’s own expense.
In this centenary year, Humphries has included The Front, composed by Lane Hinchcliffe who is a doctor by profession, but also a composer and opera singer. The Front pays homage to the lads who fought and died at Fromelles. It starts off with a grandfather and his grandson at the gravesites and links back to those times when men came from all over Australia to fight in the Great War, and then it jumps back to modern times.
Peter&Jack with Teddy Tahu Rhodes
I suspect that a touch of nostalgia has prompted Humphries to programme, Peter & Jack, that recalls the songs of Australian baritone, Peter Dawson and tenor, Jack O’Hagan. The show will be narrated by Barry Humphries and directed by Rodney Fisher. The songs are backed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. My mind flashes back to the day that Peter Dawson came to my Primary School in East Adelaide to sing his famous “Floral Dance” before the assembled students. A touch of nostalgia that I shall miss I’m afraid, but I am pleased to see that Humphries has programmed for all generations.
Ray Jessel in Naughty or Nice
An old performer I will see, however, is Ray Jessel. Few will be familiar with this “old-timer” of the American music scene. For many years, Jessel has been writing songs and compositions for a number of Broadway and T.V shows. Viewers will have heard his compositions for the popular Love Boat. He has also popped up on America’s Got Talent. He’s an unlikely performer, whose entrance onto the stage is an unconvincing shuffle. He fusses about clumsily with his mike, inspiring private groans in his audience, and then pulls off a very Tom Lehreresque, amazing performance. Glenn reveals one of his numbers about a woman, he falls in love with, was going to marry and then discovers that she has a penis. It brought the house down! Interesting material for an old trouper in his eighties.
Steve Sheehan's Tristan and Isolde
The Cabaret Festival has long held a reputation for innovation. This year, popular Adelaide Fringe performer Steve Sheehan, will be presenting his one hour version of Tristan and Isolde in the Festival Theatre rehearsal room beneath the stage. A special ramp will be built to allow the access of the horse in Sheehan’s quirky take on Wagner.
Also, Humphries is introducing the cabaret dinner. The dinner is being prepared by Maggie Beer, who was fascinated by the festival’s theme and eager to incorporate it in her three course meal. Beer, who lives in the Barossa Valley, told Humphries, “I’ll do a very German/European meal” she said. She also wanted to know who the artists were, what the wine is, and how it would fit in with the look and feel of the festival. Five artists will be engaged to sing four or five songs each during the evening. Storm Large arrives from America that day, and while her group is recovering from the long flight, she will be singing at the dinner. It gives weight to the old saying of “singing for your supper”. Former Spicks and Specks regular, Alan Brough and his offsider, Casey Benetto, will MC the night. “We gave her the background on all the artists,” Glenn says, “and she’s come up with this incredible menu. It’s going to be a very special night.”
After talking with Glenn, it’s obvious that this will be a very special festival, a feast for all tastes. Since last November, Humphries and Glenn have been sorting through the hundreds of submissions to arrive at their final selection. Final preparations in Adelaide have been left up to Glenn, as Humphries winds up his Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye – The Farewell Tour in the States with a grand finale on Broadway. Glenn is unfazed by the huge workload. He returns to Adelaide after a career in arts and venue management with such organizations as the Sydney Symphony and the State Theatre in Sydney. In a varied career, he has worked as a self-employed trombonist before escaping Adelaide for the bright lights of Sydney. He has also worked on projects as diverse as the Young Endeavour scheme, and he is thrilled to be returning to Adelaide to produce the festival. “It genuinely is my favourite festival in the country. It is a major part of the appeal in coming back to Adelaide.” Add to that the opportunity to work with Barry Humphries, and it is not surprising that Glenn would be delighted to be bringing the 2015 Cabaret Festival to audiences. Glenn obviously has a keen eye for events that hold popular appeal for audiences. After the Cabaret Festival, he will be bringing his production of circus spectacular, Le Noir, to the Canberra Theatre.
Sir Les Patterson in Love Songs For Sir Les
“The thing I love about the Cabaret Festival is that there is so much fun and freedom in what you can programme as well as the underlying relationship between the act and the audience” Glenn concludes. “I also love the storytelling in cabaret as well.”
Humphries believes that there are no rules to cabaret, and he wants to prove that through the festival. “We’ve tried to be as open and as broad in appeal as possible”, Glenn says. One look at the three week programme is enough to convince any cabaret lover that here is a festival for everyone.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
The Adelaide Festival Centre
June 5-20, 2015
For the full programme and bookings go to: http://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/adelaide-cabaret-festival/