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BWW REVIEW: Riverside Parramatta's Latest COVID Cabaret Sunday Session Is Genevieve Lemon's Take On A Century Old Artform With WELCOME TO THE MASQUE.

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BWW REVIEW: Riverside Parramatta's Latest COVID Cabaret Sunday Session Is Genevieve Lemon's Take On A Century Old Artform With WELCOME TO THE MASQUE.

Sunday 23rd August 2020, 5pm AEST, Livestreamed from Riverside Theatre Parramatta

Stage favorite Genevieve Lemon delivers a socially distanced afternoon of song and story with her contribution to Riverside Theatres Digital lineup with WELCOME TO THE MASQUE. Joined by musical director Max Lambert, hair and makeup artist Lauren Proietti and "Master of the Masque/Mask" Darren Yap, this is an interesting blend of performance for live audience and online streaming.

At a time when the World Health Organization is recommending people wear some form of face covering to reduce the spread of the virus that has stopped the world, Lemon has drawn inspiration from the artform that entertained 16th and 17th century nobility throughout Europe. According to the media publicity provided a Masque consisted of dancing and acting performed by masked players but given the virus-transmission inhibiting recommendations require covering the nose and mouth completely, Lemon only dons her array of coverings for the briefest of moments between songs leading to the feeling that there is a lot of unnecessary 'costume' changes incorporated with the sole intent of going through Lemon's hat and wig collection and iso-crafting concoctions.

WELCOME TO THE MASQUE is billed as being the result of Lemon's self-reflection during lockdown and therefore is a collection of ideas from missing loved ones to the ways she has entertained herself during isolation including podcasts and baking. On the main stage of Riverside Theatre with the stalls as a backdrop, Lemon moves between a stool and music stand, Lambert's piano and dressing table filled with mementos and the detritus of a seasoned performer. Also on stage are a small gathering of Lemon's friends and supporters to provide a 'live studio audience' with which she interacts with throughout the performance.

The need for theatre to move from live performance where actor and audience all inhabit the same space to delivering to camera to be streamed online to computer screens, or televisions for the more tech savvy, has been another challenge of the current pandemic. Sound and lighting requirements shift and the ability to engage with an unseen audience relies on the trust that jokes, and emotional tugs are landing as intended. The use of a small live audience gives the performer some of the feedback that helps fuel cabaret shows but in this instance the level of interaction tends to distance the online audience even further as they are left out of the inside jokes with friends even more than if they were all in the same room. Online performances also have the added pressure of remembering that, unlike a live performance, their audience is not as 'captive' as one that is as obviously noted if they leave the room or get 'distracted' so online shows need to be able to maintain a much higher level of audience engagement throughout.

WELCOME TO THE MASQUE fills the gap left by the restrictions on gatherings that forced theatre and cabaret into hibernation. Whilst scripted, with Lemon referring to notecards, there is a live and loose feel to the performance. Songs draw on a collection of well-known pieces and more obscure numbers and the patter follows the 'stream of conscious' style ramblings. Whilst WELCOME TO THE MASQUE is currently a one-off streamed performance, it would be interesting to see how it could evolve if presented again.

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From This Author Jade Kops