THEATRE REVIEW: To Sir With Love???

A young face in cabaret and an old hand in music butt up against one another this week, with two brand new shows opening at The Butterfly Club
THEATRE REVIEW: To Sir With Love???
A young face in cabaret and an old hand in music butt up against one another this week, with two brand new shows opening at The Butterfly Club. Featuring Dean Arcuri and Max Sharam, two exciting hours of comedy, stories and great music explode onto the stage. Dean is no stranger to Cabaret, or to the Midsumma festival, having starred in A String Of Coloured Lights at The Butterfly Club not two weeks ago. The two shows could not be more different, 'though, with To Sir With Love??? taking a far more traditional cabaret/musical revue approach to the performance space. Taking a comic approach to the often rather taboo subject of fetishism, Dean rolls through a series of weird and wacky characters, including the upper-class wife of a watersports fanatic, a bisexual masochistic Frenchman and a tradie with a penchant for women's shoes. Although kitsch and campy, characters are silly, fun and just a lot cringeworthy. While each is well-thought out and comically played, they are relatively unapologetic about being stereotypes, and can become rather two dimensional. Dean's voice is good, and some of the songs are well adapted for his subject matter, including a hilariously appropriate I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) and the requisite renditiong of I Touch Myself, made all the more disturbing by its references to an Australian television personality. Multiple ARIA award nominee and award winner Max Sharam burts into the Melbourne cabaret scene with Max Sharam Presents Songs and Stories From her Suitcase, a new show combining some of Max's incredible music with audiovisual elements and some quirky writing for an intriguing new piece of performance art. No classical cabaret here, however, with the usual elements of constant narrative and theatrical movement thrown by the wayside in favour of a quieter and more internal approach. The strength of the show is undoubtedly the music, with Max's incredible voice (known to many Australians by the 1995 hit Coma) shining through a series of her best and most personal songs. With an incredible ability to switch effortlessly from rock to croon to opera stylings, her voice is a performance in itself, and one of the reasons for her recording successes. Max has a wonderful way with words, and her quick tongue, manically quirky delivery and soaring voice create a surreal world in which everything is just that little bit more divorced from reality. The atmosphere is magical, a strange and wonderful cocoon from the outside world. Unfortunately, as is the danger with performers who are new to cabaret and used to a concert style of performance, this beautiful surreality is regularly shattered by references to the reality, the knowledge that the songs were written in response to things that really happened, rather than being performed to express a current feeling. The disappointment engendered by this sudden shock led me to ask a question: in the end, is this piece much more that a showcase of fifteen years of songwriting? Even as such, it it certainly an impressive piece of performance. With the end of the Midsumma festival, The Butterfly Club returns to its regularly scheduled programming - crazy, fun, exciting and experimental cabaret with a Melbourne twist. To Sir With Love??? runs until Sunday and Max Sharam Presents Songs and Stories from Her Suitcase runs until Saturday. To Sir With Love??? and Max Sharam Presents Songs and Stories from Her Suitcase Midsumma Festival (To Sir With Love???) The Butterfly Club

David Allen

Friday 6 February, 2009

About the author

David Allen is an editorial contributor for ArtsHub.