Monday, March 14, 2016


The Famous Spiegeltent.
Yana Alana in full flight 

Civic Square, Canberra, 5th March, 2016.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

It’ an overused word, much loved by the theatre cognoscenti, but one impossible to avoid when talking about Yana Alana. Yes! She is certainly subversive. From the moment she takes the stage for her opening number, “I’m Blue”, wearing little more than blue body paint and a huge blue wig, Yana Alanna is definitely subversive.

She positively defies her audience not to be offended. But throughout her Helpmann Award winning cabaret,  despite her constant musing on her mental state, her clever silly songs, and dubious advice on matters sexual, culled from her latest self-help tome Go Fuck Yourself,  it’s impossible to be offended by this generously proportioned, eager to be liked, blue cupie doll.

Alana unselfconsciously prowls around the stage, comfortable in her nudity, frequently interrupting her long-suffering accompanist, Louise Goh, who, it seems, has developed an unfortunate habit of answering her mobile phone during Alana’s songs. Alana eventually becomes so infuriated by these interruptions that Goh eventually breaks under the constant hectoring and leaves the stage in tears.

Unperturbed Alana drags up another unfortunate from the audience to accompany her on the keyboard, then criticises her roundly for her lack of musical ability, before sending her packing. Reluctantly she apologises to Goh and coerces her back onstage to continue the act.

She expounds on the joys of drug-taking, recklessly gulping down vials of pills, before hilariously demolishing Lloyd-Webber’s “As I We Never Said Goodbye” with a brilliantly confused, crazily speeded up, stop/start interpretation, sounding all the world like  a demented recording.

She sits on the lap of another unfortunate, encouraging him to extract a ribbon from her nether regions. When he hesitates, she berates him roundly.   She performs a bizarre interpretative dance, and even a short trumpet solo. Is there nothing this girl can’t or won’t do?

Well yes actually!  Towards the end of her act, after she’s trumpeted her anthem, “Life is a One Woman Show”, Alana’s huge blue wig comes adrift. For the first time we become aware of Sarah Ward, see the real person underneath. Stripped of her alias, Ward becomes aware of her nudity and embarrassed, apologises and attempts to cover her body with blue plastic.

It’s was a magic moment which allowed time for the audience to realise how quickly they had accepted Alana’s rantings and nudity as perfectly normal, and what a brilliant, original and surreal performance they had just witnessed. Now that’s subversive.

Yana Alana and Louise Goh

This Review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW