Monday, June 13, 2022


Facilitator Ruby Chew at Cabaret Life Drawing

Cabaret Life Drawing.

With Ruby Chew and live model Miss Burlesque SA Letitia Stitch, Cabaret singer Rosie Russell, David Goodwin on piano and Mishul Piochaud on Double Bass. The Famous Spiegeltent. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 11-25 2022.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

I have a confession to make. I was asked to leave the art classes at Adelaide Art School as a child after I drew a portrait of the teacher. If only I had had Ruby Chew from the Central School of Art as my teacher, Smiling, calm and encouraging she inspired possibility as she led me to a seat in The Famous Spiegeltent to experience Cabaret Life Drawing. With such coaxing how could I not give it a go even though to this day I can’t draw an egg.  This year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival certainly has something for everyone.

Rosie Russell and Letitia Stitch

Equipped with sheets of paper on a board and a charcoal pencil and thin charcoal stick we face the artist’s studio from a time past. On stage a tassled red chaise longue is placed before a standard lamp, a pot of ferns and a polished bentwood chair. An easel stands ready on the floor. In the background of the studio setting David Goodwin on piano and Milush Piochaud on Double Bass lull us into a sense of comfort with their jazz version of A Fine Romance.

Miss Burlesque SA. Letitia Stitch enters in a Forties style figure-hugging sleeveless long white evening gown highlighted by black lined white flounces  and reclines on the chaise longue. Still and beautiful like a Galatea from another age she alters her pose as Chew guides us through the exercises. She is Wedekind’s Lulu in the artist’s studio, a vision to melt the human heart. 

Live model  Letitia Stitch

As the charcoal sweeps across the blank paper, Rosie Russell at the microphone fills the air with the sound of cabaret and Dorothy Field’s uplifting 1940’s song If You Could See Me Now. As the workshop continues Russell returns at times to set the period once more with Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s At Last. Russell and   take their pose for the final exercise to draw one’s own impression of these Vogue Cover visions in magnificent State Opera of South Australia costumes of the period. Cabaret Life Drawing is more than an art class. It is a charming and innovative approach to the art of cabaret. As well as the exercises, such as drawing in a continuous line, drawing with the opposite hand, blind drawing and drawing freely. Chanteuse Russell and Goodwin on piano and Piochaud on Double Bass transport the audience to a time of creativity and peaceful contemplation.

The hour in Chew’s studio is over all too soon. The charm lingers and though the visual artist’s Muse may have left me long ago. Chew’s gentle instruction in Cabaret Life Drawing proves that it is never too late to return. This imaginative art class a la cabaret is style and charm in portraiture for everyone to enjoy.