Up Close and Personal: Queensland Cabaret Festival
What good is sitting alone in your room? Alistair Sutton talks to Queensland Cabaret Festival co-creative producer Kris Stewart about why you should come to the cabaret, old chum.
The 2014 Queensland Cabaret Festival promises an eclectic range of original and entertaining acts showcasing the best overseas and local talent. Co-creative producer Kris Stewart has been working feverishly behind the scenes with co-festival director Alison St Ledger and their team to secure a first class line-up.
“Cabaret is such a dynamic and creative genre,” Stewart says. “It offers scope for creative opportunities. We were lucky to secure some wonderful top-class international acts, like singer songwriter Melanie Safka, Mad Men star Bryan Batt (below), celebrated French chanteuse Caroline Nin, American composer John Bucchino and internationally-acclaimed Opera Australia baritone José Carbó. When you see these accomplished performers strut their stuff and doing really fabulous work, I think it's great for Brisbane audiences.”
Cabaret as a form of entertainment has a long, innovative tradition, where barriers between performers and audience are broken down partly due to the intimate nature of the venues. Stewart says the creative team worked on securing partnerships with venues other than the Brisbane Powerhouse, which he is really excited about.
“The challenge and opportunity of offering a variety of venues and performance spaces,” says Stewart, “is that this allows us to present a variety of styles and productions which I think is a recipe for diversity. We can present new emerging talent in the smaller spaces and give those performers an opportunity to shine, like Melody Beck, the winner of the Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest 2014. In Unseen: You’ve heard the voice now hear her story, Melody has put together a wonderful tribute to Marni Nixon, who dubbed the singing for many leading Hollywood actresses.”
Stewart admits it is always difficult to choose the acts and balance international with local talent. The team worked long and hard to get it right. “Alison and I started conversations with other festival directors, to see what was happening nationally. This allowed us to share our wish list of top talent and visualize what our dream festival would look like. Then we had to make it happen! Getting the timing right was critical in securing the likes of Caroline Nin, who could then fit us into a schedule which included Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.”
Stewart believes hosting the Cabaret Festival in multiple venues could be a template for the future. “We all get on very well you know, between the Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre, QPAC and the Arts Centre, Gold Coast. I would like to see more of this partnering of venues and even talent sharing which would be a win-win, not only for us but for audiences. I think what we are doing is very positive, and it opens things up creatively.”
Apart from international acts, the festival showcases the cream of local Australian performers – David Campbell (above), Ali McGregor (pictured, top)and duo Rachael Beck and David Hobson, who are well-known to Brisbane audiences. “This will allow their fans to have a much more intimate and personal experience of their idols, which cabaret is perfectly attuned for.”
Powerhouse audiences will remember Michael Griffiths last year when he performed In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Now he is presenting Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox, which is sure to be another hit.
“Cabaret has become one of the most popular art forms in the world, and the time is absolutely ripe for us to take that to a whole new level,” Stewart says. “Keeping that focus in mind, the festival is running with an innovation dreamt up by Matt Ward, which sees the legendary Nancye Hayes and Peter Cousens participate in Australia’s first live cabaret talk show: The Greenroom Project features on-the-couch interviews, performances and theatre gossip.”
Another must for LGBTIQ audiences, in a program packed with quirky delights, is Lizzie Moore's take on the Minogue phenomenon, On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Story. Moore's hilarious fictional creation of Erin Minogue, Kylie and Dannii's younger sister, runs the Erin Minogue Fame School in Frankston.
“We did this show in London earlier this year,” explains Stewart, who created the concept with a script by Paul Kooperman and Chris Gist. “It sold out at every show. It was great to be able to take a fun, Australian-made show and see it received so well over there. We are looking forward to presenting it here and at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
“I have done a lot of festivals over the years,” he continues. “Not everything appeals to everyone and it doesn't have to, as long as people find something that appeals to them personally. The talent we have attracted to perform across a variety of venues is undeniable. Cabaret is an immediate and clever form of entertainment. So Brisbane, watch out!”
Queensland Cabaret Festival, June 6-21, 2014.
VIDEO: Check out David Campbell and John Bucchino at QPAC