With a theme that simply states (rather than asks)‘what comes next’, this year’s Cabaret Festival features its most contemporary program in many a year thanks to new co–directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect who have injected some edge into the annual winter festival.
Though they have added some spice while looking to the new in cabaret, singer Ali McGregor says she and fellow Cabaret Festival director Eddie Perfect have not thrown away the cabaret book to program this year‘s festival, as it respects the past while looking to the future. “We absolutely want to honour that tradition and there are plenty of shows in the program that are still very much old school cabaret shows,” McGregor says. “We want to explore where it’s going. We want to create a snapshot of where it is today, and that incorporates a lot of traditional cabaret, but also exploring it as a genre, where it’s going and what it can be.” The program is edgy, naughty and satirical. It features the world’s most famous burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese (whose Festival Theatre show sold out in record time so another one had to be added), but the June festival also showcases burlesque’s avant-garde side with the adults-only The Birds by Finucane & Smith and Songs for the Fallen by Sheridan Harbridge. Away from burlesque, quality satire makes a return with The Wharf Revue and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho.
Dita Von Teese, Photo: Kaylin Idora
The burlesque and the satire are juxtaposed with Broadway and primetime TV stars such as Megan Hilty as well as songbook singers such a Tom Burlinson, and there are innovative local collaborations such as the one between Restless Dance Theatre and The Audreys for the show In the Balance. McGregor and Perfect travelled to cabaret hotspots New York, London and Berlin, as well as the Edinburgh Fringe, in order to explore the new, the interesting and the innovative. McGregor says a city such as London is basically split into two cabaret factions: songbook singers (the traditional) and alternative cabaret (the new). “We wanted to represent all of these different types of cabaret,” she says. “I think we are in a unique position where we can do that at our festival. We wanted to give an overview of where cabaret is internationally and luckily there are so many Australians at the top of their game that we didn’t need to book any token local shows.”
Ali McGregor, Photo: Alan Moyle
McGregor, who left an opera singing career to join La Clique and become a cabaret star more than 10 years ago, has known her co-director Eddie Perfect for about a decade, as they met as part of Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Laughapalooza, which featured future comedy and cabaret stars Tim Minchin, Sammy J and Axis of Awesome. “We mix in the same kind of circles,” she says. “We know a lot of the same people and have similar likes. Having said that, we have very different skill sets. Eddie has a real passion for new writing and composers and he’s really interested in really stretching the form. I, on the other hand, have a really rich knowledge of cabaret artists from being at a lot of festivals around the world, and having a real love for the art.” McGregor will perform her show Decadence at the festival, which she put together for last year’s Edinburgh Fringe to mark 10 years since she ran away from the opera to join La Clique. “I wanted to celebrate that journey. It’s a ‘best of’ of all the material I’ve done over the 10 years, the songs I’ve most enjoyed singing, which usually are the same ones that people enjoy as well. I think we have similar tastes, my audience and I.” Adelaide Cabaret Festival Adelaide Festival Centre Friday, June 10 to Saturday, June 25 adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au Ali McGregor – Decadence Saturday, June 11, 6.30pm Dunstan Playhouse