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Review: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2017: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS – BEDLAM at Artspace

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 23rd June 2017.

They are back, and Bedlam is every bit as sensational as their first foray into the dark world of Berlin Kabarett and opera inspired cabaret. The Strange Bedfellows are opera singers, Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen, taking time out for a walk on the wild side. It might come as a greater shock to Adelaide theatregoers seeing her in this production to realise that Dark played the Abbess in the recent national tour of The Sound of Music, gaining critical acclamation and the biggest applause of all in the final bows. This performance, though, is definitely not for your kids' ears. Open a bottle of absinthe, pour yourself a good measure, and hold on to your hats, it's going to be a very bumpy ride.

First up, the contribution of Daryl 'Daggers' Wallis has to be applauded, playing piano and synthesiser, and adding extra vocals, as well as acting as the doctor overseeing the recovery and rehabilitation of the duo, makes him more than just an accompanist. He added a strong hint of Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth to his backing for their second number, Crazy, which intrigued me.

Did I say "recovery and rehabilitation"? I should explain. Since their last assault on the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, these two miscreants have been incarcerated for their own good or, more likely, to protect sensitive audiences. They have now been declared able to rejoin society, under their doctor's supervision. It has all been a cleverly devised plot. They have not been cured, they have degeneraTed Further. For this, we must all be thankful.

Dark and Breen pick up where they left off and up the ante quite a lot in this truly disgusting, sorry, I meant truly brilliant piece of cabaret, once again with the subversive humour, sexual politics, lampooning of government and bigotry, and a distinct touch of Dadaism, that shows a clear descent from the German Kabarett of the Weimar Republic era between the wars, the heyday of the genre.

There is genius behind the craziness, and their performances are thoroughly engaging, keeping the audience laughing and applauding, and suitably shocked. Nothing can escape their incisive wit, and nothing is off limits in this marvellous production. They would have fitted right into the Berlin scene in the 1930s.

To go through, number by number, sequence by sequence, would be to ruin it for future audiences, and would hardly convey the reality of the production. It is a certainty, though, that, had they lived in Berlin between the wars, people such as Weill, Brecht, Spoliansky, Eisler, and Hollaender would have been writing songs for them. Actually, Eisler didn't know it at the time, but he was writing for them, as they included his music, alongside many other repurposed composers.

One song that stopped the show was the hilarious Southern Baptist sermon, warning against ringing the Devil's doorbell, and that one is definitely best left for future audiences to discover for themselves. The Australian federal government came in for brickbats, of course, much to the enjoyment of all. The songs, the laughs, the madness, and the mayhem kept going, with no let-up until the final bow had been taken.

If you see a future Strange Bedfellows performance advertised, race to get tickets. You will not be disappointed.


Seann Walsh Will Embark on Australian Tour in 2023 Photo
Seann Walsh is heading back on tour in Australia! Performances begin on 30 March.

SEAMEN! THE SEA SHANTY SPECTACULAR Comes to Adelaide Fringe This March Photo
Hot on the heels of sell-out performances at the 2021 and 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festivals and 2022 and 2023 Midsumma Festival, “SEAMEN! THE SEA SHANTY SPECTACULAR” is set to make its South Australian premiere!

Anthony Tran and Fay MacFarlane Bring LOVE LIFE LAUNDRY to Adelaide Fringe Photo
Celebrated circus performers and life partners Anthony Tran and Fay MacFarlane will shine a light on their incredible bond as lovers and performers in a brand-new show, Love Life Laundry which will warm the hearts and minds of Adelaide Fringe audiences.

Comedian William Wang to Play Adelaide Fringe Festival Next Month Photo
Comedian Wang, the only hand full Chinese-English speaking stand-up comedian in Australia, will bring his unique brand of observational humor to the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Born in ZhengZhou, a city of 10 million population in China, Wang moved to Australia in 2016 and has been captivating audiences with his unique blend of Chinese traditional stand-up comedy - Crosstalk (相声) and Western humor ever since.


From This Author - Barry Lenny


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