Raise a Glass and Ruffle Some Feathers by Shortis & Simpson. At Contentious Character Winery, Wamboin – near Queanbeyan, just in New South Wales over the border from Canberra, Australia’s Washington DC. January 21-23, 2021.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
The night begins with quality bubbly, hors d’oeuvres and delicious mains, accompanied by wines with unusual names of a contentious character, celebrated craftily in a song beginning Murder a Merlot, ending with Shades of Grape.
Literally fully prepared for an S&S traditional satirical musical commentary, on this occasion covering the annus horribilis 2020, there was no hesitation about calling John and Moya back for a finger-wagging warning encore. Drinks before dinner, drinks during dinner, and drinks after dinner, they sang, mean it will be a rednosed reindeer driving our sleigh tonight.
I made sure to drive home across the state border on a route where I knew the police were not checking if I had come from a hot-spot – a Covid-19 hot-spot, that it is – after an injection of Regeron, hydroxichloroquine and disinfectant like the boastful Donald Trump they sang about. Actually a very smooth Pinot Grigio.
Just fitting 'hydroxichloroquine' into the rhythm of a cheerful upbeat song shows John’s music and lyrics composing skill, the humour backed throughout the show by Moya’s quite amazing range of voice quality, and pitch varying from the deepest bass to tiny screech, in all-sorts of characters from Paul Robeson to children’s story-teller.
Shortis & Simpson have the light touch of an entertainment as members of our local community, with emotionally touching moments in their songs such as Smoke Gets In Your Vines for the winemakers and A Glimmer of Hope for native animals. The summer bushfires a year ago cannot be forgotten. But neither can the ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns in the sad song of the only chance once a week, putting out the garbage bins, for any excitement for their family and friends in Melbourne, in Another Tuesday Night in Brunswick.
Politics always gets a knowing laugh – about temporary acting-Prime Minister Michael Bloody McCormack (all sing together!), Mr Scomo giving the children an early mark, and the changing of just the word ‘one’ bringing us all together in the National Anthem. Then there’s a deeper irony as John had prepared himself for the likelihood of more dramatic violence at the real Washington DC at 3am our time on the morning of the show. The fading away of Donald Trump and the peaceful inauguration of President Biden called for a quiet contemplative poem, read with sincerity by Moya and followed by a beautiful Zoom choir toasting 2021.
Here I can only briefly touch on the variety presented in some 24 items in the two Acts, with sweets in between, of Raise a Glass and Ruffle Some Feathers. Two more performances at Contentious Character Winery are already fully booked, but I would hope that ruffling feathers will continue, and raising a glass is a good way to do it.