Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cabaret: Gold-digger

Written and performed by Analisa Bell
Music by Tim Cunniffe and Analisa Bell
Accompanist Tim Cunniffe
with Laura Hopwood and Nicole La Bianca

Downstairs at the Maj
9, 10, 11 September 2010 

The Maj is alive with the machinations of carnivorous women this weekend. While Mrs Robinson ensnares her toy boy upstairs, downstairs a local predator has much older prey in her sights.
Analisa Bell, the writer and star of the one-act cabaret Gold-digger, is on familiar ground here, for we all have our opinions about a certain Filipina housemaid turned socialite whose marital adventures in the ’80s and ’90s titillated and scandalised Perth.
Because we all know, or think we know, Ms Bell’s Rose Portalou so well, it’s a tough gig to give a fresh new insight into her life and times in the pastiche of reminiscence, advice to the love-lorn and self-promotion in monologue and song that fills the hour we spend with her.
But the audience’s easy identification with the character served her well, especially early on when opening-night nerves got the better of her for a short time.
Happily, the audience was one of the stars of the show. I’ve got no doubt many cheering her on were fans Ms Bell has picked up in the decade of so since she graduated from WAAPA.
This is a good thing; we need performers with personal followings, and an “up”, boisterous crowd always helps fill the dips and lift the highlights.
The highlights of this show are original songs by Ms Bell and the admirable Tim Cunniffe, who is also her accompanist (and, briefly, the dying iron baron Sam Bancock). While there are unsurprising bowdlerisations of popular tunes like Big Spender and Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, originals like Confrontation (featuring an excoriating cameo by Bancock’s vengeful daughter Nina), the sad and hilarious Pethidine Poker, the uproarious Toothpaste Cha Cha and an instant standard in Enough is Never Enough propel the show and give Ms Bell’s bravura talents fullest scope.
There’s also some delicious choreography by Anna Tsirigotis featuring Laura Hopwood and Nicole La Bianca as a sexy pair of Rose’s poodles/handmaidens. Their foray into the audience, handing out lollipops for ladies to practise on during Rose’s sex education class, was especially delectable.
Gold-digger is still a work in progress (for which the Maj’s Brainbox Project deserves our thanks). I’m not sure if it can travel successfully to places where its subject matter is less known, but with more work, and especially more of its excellent original songs, it well deserves at least another, longer, Perth run.

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian 13.09.10 here. 

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