BWW Reviews: HOMOS IN KIMONOS

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KIN Collaborative Inc. present Homos in Kimonos - a cabaret double bill showcasing the talents of two voices to follow. Will Hannagan and James Halloran have combined to present this show as part of the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The promotional material labels this show as 'camp-as-tits' and it would be fair to say that such an assessment is certainly not an understatement. Offering two hours of cabaret, this is a show that successfully shatters the theatrical fourth wall and provides an experience like few others.

A unique and intriguing feature of the venue is the proximity it affords the audience to the performers. A large open workspace, The Baron Said first feels more like an empty car garage or workshop. It is neatly divided into a small performance space, audience assembly area, and cast preparation area. The divisions between sections are pieces of cloth hung from the ceiling, meaning that the audience is privy to the cast preparing - whether that is applying makeup or working through vocal warm-ups. This is a dimension of the performing arts that few audiences experience up-close.

Hailing from Brisbane, Halloran presents a one-hour show titled James and the Halloran. I do not profess to fully understand the subtleties of this set, but my interpretation is that James is hosting an alter ego, The Halloran. Halloran's outer and inner person are in conflict, thus creating a perpetual jousting match between Halloran the performer and Halloran the individual. The alter ego thrives on applause, like any performer while on stage, and there are dramatic switches between James and The Halloran during the show. Beyond that I can offer little interpretation, with the press release again proving incisive, describing the range of numbers in the show as drawing on "the wonderful, the carnal, and the downright weird."

Despite not being fully on board with the premise of the show and the layered intricacies of the story, Halloran's talents are suitably impressive. From his passionate piano playing to his powerful voice there is much to like about Halloran as an artist. Halloran's vocal impact is aided by the venue, which afforded an amazing reverb that meant notes hung in the air, seemingly forever, refusing to fade. My query with the performance of Halloran was not so much with the quality of the voice, but more the one-way nature of the show. At times the lyrics and premises are difficult to follow and there is limited opportunity for clarification. Halloran also performs from behind a piano, which means there is a restricted opportunity for direct audience interaction. This is in stark contrast to Hannagan, who performs the second act of the evening.

Will Hannagan's offering is a one-hour show titled Highs, Lies, and Shoestring Fries! The Scrimshaw Four back Hannagan and prove to be a key part of the performance. Their interaction in the show provides some wonderful gags about the nature of remuneration in the performing arts, while also flagging caution for anyone considering a profit-share based contract. Hannagan's show is also camp, depicting his battle with an inner drag queen called Mother Marxist. While the switches between Hannagan and Mother Marxist are sometimes awkward, there is a clear trace of self-reflection, revelation, and personal journey in Hannagan's show. Drawing on his relationships, his time as an overseas exchange student, and reflecting on his journey through life and love, Hannagan's material points to the social and ideological conflicts arising from commercialism, individualism, and narcissism in today's society. With the benefit of the backing group, Hannagan is able to move about, drawing the audience into his story in a number of ways. This means the audience is a part of his journey, in contrast to just being told a story. There is also evidence of Hannagan's wit and humor in the various segues and lyrics. The audience, as a result, seemed more on-board for the journey on which Hannagan takes them.

Both Halloran and Hannagan are talented. From start to finish they display a vocal range that leaves you in awe, with the natural acoustics of the venue accentuating every note. For this alone Halloran and Hannagan are worthy of an appreciative audience. Even if you do not fully pick up the subtleties of their story, or if you are not a drag-connoisseur, there is still enough in this show to enable you to appreciate it as a performance. The holistic experience is sufficient to make the visit worthwhile. With such a pairing of a unique venue and two very unique performers, Homos in Kimonos provides an opportunity for a different kind of performing arts experience.

WHEN: 1-12 April, 8pm (Except Mondays)
WHERE: The Baron Said, 83 Kerr St, Fitzroy
GET THERE: Tram number 112 runs past Kerr Street and is a good way to avoid traffic hassles and parking issues. Alight at stop 16 (Johnston Street) or 17 (Leicester Street). Check out http://www.yarratrams.com.au/using-trams/route-guides/route-112/ for further details
TICKETS: $25 Full, $20 Concession, $18 Tightarse Tuesdays www.comedyfestival.com.au or Ticketmaster on 1300660013

PHOTO CREDIT: Images from press release provided by Wolfe Words PR



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