Life is a cabaret festival

20 June 2022

From an exquisite performance by Lior to mashed up anthems of gender equality, the opening weekend of the Perth International Cabaret Festival provides plenty of reasons to come hear the music play, writes David Zampatti.

Opening Weekend, Perth International Cabaret Festival ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 18-19 June 2022 ·

Animal in Hiding, the title of the new album the singer/songwriters Lior and Domini Forster showcased in their exquisite headline appearance at the Perth International Cabaret Festival is also an apt description of the festival itself.

Last year’s line-up was severely impacted by COVID restrictions (Lior and fellow marquee attraction Meow Meow were both unable to make the trip west), and an unrelated health emergency has forced Vinka and Linda Bull to postpone their appearance at this year’s festival (a rescheduled date will be announced soon).

But all those setbacks seemed very small beer indeed under the spell of Lior’s gentle, fine-tuned tenor vocals and intricate guitar playing.

Lior work ranges across many forms, from solo work in the Hebrew and Arabic musical traditions to performances with orchestras including the Sydney Symphony and Australian Chamber Orchestras. In his concert on Sunday evening in His Majesty’s Theatre auditorium (he also performed a short set the previous night in the UpLate Downstairs venue) the focus is on his acoustic guitar-based folk ballads. He is joined by Forster, a talented and sympathetic collaborator, whose voice and guitar playing are a perfect match, and the Flamingo Strings – Rachel Aquilina and Teresa Vinci (violin), Alix Hamilton (viola) and Anna Sarcich (cello).

The influence of the young Paul Simon is apparent – acknowledged by a charming take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will”, one of four eclectic covers including Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes’ “Satisfied Mind” (in the style of my favourite of the many versions of the standard by Tim Hardin), Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and Eden Ahbez’s enigmatic, pensive “Nature Boy”.

What to SEE: top picks for the Perth International Cabaret Festival

There’s even a nod to the Beatles’ “Julia” in Lior’s “Gloria”, the story of an evening walk with a wise old lady, only one example of songs about past lives and growing old that permeate the set, most notably in the elegiac “My Grandfather” that, despite its simplicity, fills the hall with palpable emotion.

While the string quartet generally provide aural depth to the duo’s lead, the subtle power of all six players comes through in a glorious final build of the album’s title track “Animal in Hiding”. It is a highlight, but only one of many from Lior’s twenty-year repertoire.

Lior is the most reachable of artists; the clarity of his performance, and his warmth and genuine humour make the 90 minutes spent with him, Forster and the Flamingo Strings an unalloyed pleasure.

It was not the only one to be had in Cabaret Festival’s opening weekend; congratulations to young Eloise Madison who’s Left to my Imagination, a set of youthful reflections (she was born the year Lior began his career) in the Dress Circle Bar was as full of promise as it was of distances yet to be travelled.

Two women in sequined dresses and holding microphones sing shoulder to shoulder under bright spotlights.
Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer take their audience somewhere over a rainbow. Photo: Vanessa Cooper Photographie

Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer have travelled those distances many times, and on Saturday night in Over the Rainbow the veteran jazz singers and their band – Chris Foster (piano), Nick Abbey (bass) and Michael Perkins (drums) – have great fun mashing up the anthems of gender equality from Kylie to George Michael and way back to Blossom Dearie. If Patsy and Edina ever took to cabaret, this would be the absolutely fabulous show they’d come up with.

The deeply troubling Tomás Ford performed his Campfire Ukulele Torture twice on Saturday night – once in the Maj’s suitably subterranean basement and once at UpLate Downstairs, and on both occasions he did something so outrageous that an audience member impulsively cried out “Oh, sweet Jesus!”

Ford looked thrilled.

He’s an act you should see, even if it makes you determined to never, ever see him again (I’m not one of them.)

The festival continues this week, with treats like Peter Cumins, Paul Capsis, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, the Uplate Downstairs reviews, the Closing Night Gala and, of course, the fabulous Mme Meow Meow still to come.

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play.

Perth International Cabaret Festival is at His Majesty’s Theatre until 25 June 2022.

Pictured top: Lior weaves his spell at the Perth International Cabaret Festival. Photo: Vanessa Cooper Photographie

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

Past Articles

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    WAAPA’s music theatre headliner this year is the little-known Mack & Mabel, and David Zampatti says that while it’s easy to find its flaws, it’s also easy to overlook them.

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