The second Cabaret Festival under the guidance of Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect showcases cabaret’s edgy, contemporary and sophisticated sides with big names including Alan Cumming, Bridget Everett and Bill Frisell.
The current Cabaret Festival artistic directors brought the edge back to the festival with their debut program in 2016 after a rather conservative and lacklustre few years. This year they have programmed bold headliners, exciting talent to watch and new local work to fit the theme the tables are turning. Perfect says the theme not only reflects the major renovations at the Cabaret Festival’s hub, the Festival Centre, but global political and social changes.
“We wanted to really embrace the changes that are going on physically at the Festival Centre but also keep the programming challenging, exciting and fun with works that are intimate and which give people an experience they can’t get anywhere else,” Perfect says.
“We can’t pretend the world is the same place as it was 12 months ago,” he continues. “We’re living in a Trump era; there’s a lot of fear, division and conservatism around. I think cabaret is one of those art forms that can respond to [what’s happening in] the world very quickly. This doesn’t mean that you then have this massively political festival. What you do have is people wanting to tackle power head on [through their art] or they’re saying what we need right now is absurdism or comedy or intimacy or love or joy. We tried to program something that spoke to all of those needs.”
One of the headliners that fit the absurdist and comedy billings is the hilarious comedian and singer Bridget Everett, a rowdy New Yorker who is best known to international audiences through her appearances in Amy Schumer vehicles.
“There is absolutely no way you can walk out of a Bridget Everett show without having felt you’ve experienced something quite incredibly wild and outrageous,” Perfect says. “We’ve been really desperate to get her in the festival and I think she’s going to push peoples’ buttons. I can guarantee people haven’t seen anything like this, she’s wildly funny and incredibly courageous.”
Another big name is actor and cabaret star Alan Cumming while Grammy Award winning jazz figures Bill Frisell and Dianne Reeves will be here along with the previously announced big budget Tim Minchin musical Matilda. On the Australian front there is the Chris Drummond (Brink Productions) directed Ancient Rain with Paul Kelly and Camille O’Sullivan, The Sound of Falling Stars starring Cameron Goodall and Vigil, a collaboration between former late night comedy host Steve Vizard and jazz figure Joe Chindamo starring Christie Whelan-Browne.
“Steve Vizard’s writing is really beautiful,” Perfect says. “He’s a dedicated writer and he wanted to work with Joe, who’s one of my favourite jazz musicians in Australia; an incredible pianist and composer. It’s a meditation on loss and grief and nursing a parent thought the final stages of their life.”
Perfect won’t be performing in anything this time around aside from the gala shows. Currently working on four musicals, including the Broadway-bound Beetlejuice, the actor and writer says there are no strict rules when it comes to programming cabaret for a cabaret festival.
“To be honest I don’t really care about the rules. My main things are: is it theatrical? Is it musical? Is it good? They’re my three boxes.
“We’re not here to uphold some imaginary rulebook about what cabaret is. We’re here to go, ‘Do we feel this has a cabaret sensibility, a cabaret spirit, and is it good?’ If yes, then we’re going to program it. Then we’ll let the people decide.”
Given Tim Minchin’s Matilda is headlining this festival, can we see Beetlejuice at a future Cabaret Festival?
“That’s possible but we’ve got a very big mountain to climb [writing Beetlejuice] and I don’t know if I can even see the summit yet,” he laughs.
The full program can be viewed at the Cabaret Festival’s website. Finally, Perfect says that he and McGregor found confidence from last year’s response to their debut festival.
“People were interested in the new, the bizarre, the joyous and the whimsical, so we’ll keep swinging for the fences.”
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
June 9 to June 24