Cabaret Festival Review: Shay Stafford, Memoirs of a Showgirl

Space Theatre, Sunday, June 8

In a dazzling tribute to the city of lights, Shay Stafford’s Memoirs of a Showgirl takes us behind the curtain of Paris’ smoky cabaret scene and into the private life of a showgirl. From her first audition to the moment she passed her still-warm shoes onto the next starry-eyed dancer, Stafford reminisces about her 12 years spent performing at two of the world’s most celebrated nightspots, the Lido and Moulin Rouge.

The show, based on her published memoir of the same name, was a balance of warm-hearted nostalgia and high-energy performance. It began with a flashy video montage of vintage cabaret footage and childhood photographs, which, while adding a personal touch, took away from the otherwise polished spectacle. Aided by her husband and MC for the show, Bryce Corbett, Stafford moved seamlessly between commentary and performance. She was, one moment, musing over her past while perched on a dressing table, and the next, dancing alongside her charming Can Canettes (Samara Kennedy and Adelaide Coghlan), who executed many impressive kicks and splits of their own. The jaw-droppingly flexible Duncan Brown nearly stole the show with his brilliant acrobatic routine involving a suspended hoop. Pianist Matthew Carey set the Parisian scene beautifully, playing scores by Edith Piaf, while clingy Parisian ex-lover, Ben Palumbo, provided much of the comedy with his cheeky striptease and dynamic vocals. With so much talent on stage, the showgirl herself could have almost been rivalled. But Stafford was utterly enchanting as she brought her anecdotes to life in a stunning array of sequins and feathers, commanding the stage with easy grace and charisma. It wasn’t exactly the Moulin Rouge, but Shay Stafford’s honest and unforgettable show brought une touche de Paris to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Rating: ****

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