BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE CABARET FRINGE 2014: GIRL ON THE DRINK: THE LAGER CONTINUES Leads Adelaide Into Exciting New Wave Cabaret
Reviewed Friday28th June 2014
Annie Siegmann is back to update us all on her progress towards an alcohol free lifestyle in her latest show, Girl on the Drink: The Lager Continues. This follows on from Girl on the Drink: From Gutter to Glamour in Satire and Song, which she performed a year ago and which was a celebration of six months of sobriety.
In a very smart move by Siegmann there is a brief reminder of some of the content of that previous show, which makes this one able to stand alone without having seen the earlier show. She reiterates that having a few drinks in a social setting can be fun, but that it is easy to overstep the mark into drunkenness and alcoholism, and she is brave enough to admit that, during the last year, she fell off the wagon, but refused to let alcohol take over her life again and fought back.
The powerful opening number, I Never Want to Drink Again, summed up her positive approach to putting alcoholism behind her and taking control of her life. Her initial banter, mentioning the recent World Gin Day, included a walk around the audience. You cannot break the fourth wall any more than that, and this is an important part of cabaret, the audience interaction. Drinking, she reminds us, is fun, and she discusses drinking games, including one concerning Sir David Attenborough's television documentaries, which she tells in song, accompanying herself on ukulele.
Siegmann goes beyond breaking the fourth wall, chatting as though she is with a group of close friends, where anything can be said, and done, including an instrumental introduction on melodica as the optimism begins to fade and the darkness closes in. Morning after thoughts, through the haze, are self-deprecating, but humorously told, before adding another level of darkness with the next few songs, along with power and passion. The descents into darkness continued.
Although Siegmann is a prolific songwriter, she is not averse to using an existing piece by another songwriter if it fits into her narrative. This was most obvious with her inclusion of Laura, with music by Justin Parker and lyrics by Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes). Siegmann gave it the most impassioned and informed interpretation that I have heard, tearing at the heart strings and making it entirely her own song. Yes, it really was better than the original.
The struggles are not over, but Siegmann got back on the wagon and has been there successfully for a goodly time again. This gave the opportunity to show what she could do with Elliott Smith's Between the Bars. This stripped back, almost Spartan version, threw everything back onto Siegmann and, again, she did not simply sing the song, she invested herself entirely into the lyrics and turned it into something completely new and thoroughly riveting.
So great became the emotional intensity that the audience were afraid to applause after each song, because it had become all so intimate that it no longer seemed appropriate to do so. We were all so moved and so deeply touched by the performance, even when her humour came through in her interactions with the audience. With little let up, even the final song had a poignancy running through the notes of optimism.
In the 1980s 'satirical cabaret' took off, led by groups such as Fascinating Aida. The movement known as 'dark cabaret' emerged around the end of the 1980s, with the Tiger Lillies, and gained greater recognition through Amanda Palmer, both as a solo act and through her association with Brian Viglione, as the Dresden Dolls, whilst Frisky and Mannish established what has been referred to as karaoke cabaret, and Meow Meow has her own unique style that she calls kamikaze cabaret.
Siegmann is right up there with those others around the world who are working in that 21st Century dark cabaret genre, one of only a few in Adelaide embracing modern forms and, especially, composing new music to suit.
It is always exciting to see one of Siegmann's shows as there is an observable level of development and growth every time. This latest performance was no exception, the last twelve months showing some great strides in both her music and the consolidation of her own particular understanding of cabaret today.
She was helped enormously in this by her accompanist, Michael Ross, on keyboard who was completely aligned with her ideas and gave excellent support to her performance, empathising with the emotional sense behind each song and matching her intent. A good accompanist can make all the difference to a show.
Annie Siegmann is emerging as an innovative and pioneering force on the Adelaide cabaret scene, and it will be no surprise if we soon lose her to London or New York, where modern cabaret styles are recognised and in great demand. Make sure to catch any future performances while you can.