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Two encores were demanded

BWW Review: THE GEORGIA HORGAN EXPERIENCE – ADELAIDE FRINGE at Eliza Hall At PayinthiReviewed by Ray Smith, Friday 19th February 2021.

The Eliza Hall, attached to the Prospect Library, is a small, tidy theatre with a fully equipped stage, a small bar, and an intimate, yet airy, welcoming space. The seating for the performance of The Georgia Horgan Experience, a part of the Adelaide Fringe, was cabaret style, with suitably distanced small tables and chairs arranged informally before the generous stage, and the small but garrulous and excited audience was invited to sit anywhere they chose.

Each table boasted a bowl of assorted chocolates, and some bottles of chilled water, adding to the party atmosphere created by the chatting and laughing audience members, who all appeared to be known to each other. I felt like I had inadvertently crashed a private gathering, but was soon put at ease by the warm greetings of members of Georgia Horgan's family.

Her father, Paul, explained to me that this was to be not so much a musical performance as an 'Experience'.

The star of the show, Georgia Horgan is "a singer/songwriter and actor from Adelaide, South Australia. She has been performing publicly and writing songs since she was 10 years old. She is out to prove that even those in wheelchairs can achieve anything they put their mind to", her Adelaide Fringe blurb reliably informed me as I settled into a seat close to the stage, carefully avoiding the bowl of chocolates.

She was to be accompanied on the stage by Stefan Athanasov, who was providing acoustic guitar and vocal backing. He is also one of Horgan's coaches at Lift Up Voices, a registered NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) provider, offering programs that are designed to help develop skills, social connection, and confidence through the creative arts. Two of the founders of the organisation are Horgan's twin sister, Tori Marshall, and her husband, Scott. The familial feeling in the hall began to make sense.

Horgan and Athanasov took to the stage to tumultuous applause and excited cheers, and the show began.

The programme consisted of rock and pop classics and some lesser-known ballads that were supported by backing tracks, as well as Athanasov's fluent guitar work, but there were also a significant number of original works that were well-crafted and recorded songs that really stood out amongst the familiar pieces.

Although it was the original material that was of the greatest interest to me, the enthusiastic and supportive audience joined in with any song that they knew, and with a couple that they only thought they knew! I thought that the roof was at risk of being blown off during Horgan's interpretation of Eye of the Tiger.

The original songs had a poignancy and depth that was very moving and spoke of Horgan's extraordinary determination and courage in her mission to prove that differently-abled people can achieve anything that they set their minds on.

Her song, Find a Way, Make it Happen, explored her own journey as a singer/songwriter and, as a veteran of the Adelaide Fringe, this being her second season of shows, and as a featured performer at many other high profile events, it was an affirmation of her hard work and success.

Horgan's collaborator and accompanist, Stefan Athanasov, has been working with her for eighteen months and they have an easy and mutually respectful relationship that is clearly evident during their on-stage interactions. Athanasov himself is one of the most infectiously enthusiastic and fun-filled musicians I have ever seen live, yet managed to divert all attention away from himself and back to the star of the show who he affectionately referred to as "G".

The audience was very supportive and utterly joyous in their responses to every song and were only stilled briefly by a moving duet between Horgan and Athanasov supported only by his acoustic guitar.

The intimacy of the relationship between Horgan and her audience, and the obvious love they held for her, was ably demonstrated when Athanasov invited a particularly adoring fan in the audience onto the stage to join them in a mad version of Twist It, a song made famous by Ray Charles in the Blues Brothers movie. He eagerly leaped onto the stage and shared Horgan's mic, and shook his tail feathers with the best of them. It was later revealed to me that Horgan visits the man's cafe, Coffylosophy, every day, and that they have had a strong and abiding friendship for a long time.

Horgan's final song for the evening was announced, and it was to be one of her own. A very contemporary song with a strong, driving rhythm, featuring tuned percussion and synthesisers, entitled, I Wish I Could, I Wish I Could. An interesting choice, given the fact that she had already demonstrated that she very definitely already can.

The audience, however, had other plans, and two encores were demanded. I just sat and grinned and ate some more chocolate.

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