Bigger and Blacker
Performed by Steven Oliver. Musical Director and accompanist on piano and vocals Michael Griffiths. The Famous Spiegeltent. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre June 8-9 2019
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Steven Oliver in Bigger and Blacker Photo: Sarah walker|
At last an act true to the traditional spirit of Cabaret. This is not in any way to diminish the brilliant display of talent in this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, but for me, Steven Oliver’s Bigger and Blacker embodies my notion of the true purpose of the art of Cabaret. Oliver, best known for his appearances on the popular indigenous comedy show, Black Comedy represents the voice of the minority within the minority with original songs and rapid fire hip hop lyrics that dart forth the issues that affect the gay black man and his people.
Formally dressed in a suit and bowtie, Oliver is one man and Everyman. His songs embrace the universality of the human condition with all its fears and dreams and insecurities. His poetry directly chides ignorance and prejudice while cloaking it with the risqué ribaldry of gay humour. Sex and satire are the touchstones of cabaret and Oliver’s original songs transport us through his personal struggles with identity and fame towards a wider perspective on the struggles that confront his people. Laughter turns to tears in masterful persuasion of his audience in the Famous Spiegeltent as the tragedy of his people becomes central to Bigger and Blacker. If it is the role of cabaret to hold the mirror up to injustice and disenfranchisement, then Steven Oliver’s songs and lyrics are an anthem to white people and black people alike. Aboriginals are not young and free. Children as young as ten see no future in their lives and choose to leave. Facebook becomes a haven for cruel racist trolling This is a nation’s tragedy and a nation’s shame and it is the duty of cabaret to restore awareness and conscience.
Oliver’s comic genius is a panacea that prepares us for awakening. His humour is contagious, cheeky and so very naughty as he minces, taps, sings and shakes his bum at the crowd. Original, funny and refreshing, Oliver in the company of his brilliant musical director and accompanist Michael Griffiths reaches out the hand of reconciliation to his largely white audience Thoughts flash to the MC’s plea in Cabaret. “Ein bisschen Verstaendnis (A little understanding)” That is the gift that Oliver’s cabaret performance proffers to the audience.
The two performances at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival pass far too soon and this is a cabaret act that should tour the country and reach out to all peoples of the land. Perhaps then the blind will see and the deaf will hear.and the tears will turn to laughter. And that is cabaret!!