Miss Friby, All Alone...At Last

A mesmerising and enjoyable audience experience.
Miss Friby, All Alone...At Last

Image: www.missfriby.com.au

Those who have seen Miss Friby’s shows before will know what to expect, but those who haven’t should be aware that Miss Friby, All Alone…At Last doesn’t deliver the tassel-twirling, striptease version of burlesque that is so popular these days.

Instead, Miss Friby draws on distinctly earlier burlesque traditions of puns, parody, and (mostly) clothed spectacle to give her audience their kicks. And there are plenty of kicks in this energetic production at this year’s Big West Festival. Elizabeth Dawson-Smith embodies Miss Friby in a confident performance that spans tap dancing, cabaret, burlesque, over the top dramatics and a healthy dose of audience interaction.

We all know a diva likes to make an entrance, and Miss Friby is no exception. She enters the stage armed with an array of cleaning products with which she generously douses select audience members. Miss Friby delights us with a lively musical number and reads us a list of rules for the evening. From the very start it’s clear who’s in charge around these parts.

We’re waiting, she tells us, for the real guests to arrive. The A-Listers. We’re just the rent-a-crowd, she tells us. For Miss Friby, it’s all about the VIP guests who are coming to her birthday party.

As it turns out, nobody is coming to Miss Friby’s birthday party.

What starts as a tenuous link between numbers, turns out to be an effective vehicle ​for Miss Friby ​to work herself into audience members hearts. We all forgive the jibes and get involved in the hilarious acts that see Miss Friby morph from soft-shell crab, to stalker ex-lover, and finally to lonely artist at the top of her game. It’s ridiculous, but we buy it. Why?Because it’s damn good fun, because we don’t want Miss Friby to be lonely, and above all because we like her.

It’s easy to see how Dawson-Smith became a finalist on Australia’s Got Talent – she has bucket loads of it. She’s a seasoned performer with a love of stage and audience, evident in the way she has every single audience member eating out of the palm of her hand.

Food features prominently in several acts and its a highlight, but it would be a spoiler to reveal the details. Suffice to say there are several stage refreshes between acts due to some spectacular incidents involving spaghetti.

Miss Friby’s musicians deserve a special mention. The music is impeccable, but it doesn’t stop there. Miss Friby may believe she’s all alone, but she most certainly is not. The talented keyboardist, drummer, guitarist and emcee all go above and beyond the usual band member duties and dive into character as starving artists. It’s not often one sees a support band whose onstage presence is so seamlessly interwoven into the performance as a whole.

Mid-way through the evening the band’s guitarist takes centre stage with an astounding cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes. It’s breath taking, earthy and downright phenomenal. For a moment we wish she could go right on singing, but then something else happens on stage and we’re distracted and delighted by more of Miss Friby’s wacky awesomeness.

The special guest for the evening is Zelia Rose, otherwise known as Miss Burlesque Australia 2014. She entrances the crowd with a sensual fan dance number, transporting us to Arabian Nights and displaying fluid, effortless sex-appeal.

Dawson-Smith and the entire ensemble must be congratulated on a phenomenal evening of entertainment. Miss Friby, All Alone…At Last effortlessly melds an impressive array of genres to create a mesmerising and enjoyable audience experience.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Miss Friby, All Alone…At Last

Written and performed by: Elizabeth Dawson-Smith
Big West Festival
The Reverence Hotel, Footscray
25-28 November

Jo McEniery

Monday 30 November, 2015

About the author

Jo McEniery is a Melbourne-based writer and poet.