I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself in for with Seen & Heard. It’s described as ‘Storytelling Cabaret’ and on the Fringe website there are mentions of nudity, course language and sexual references. And there were all of those things. There were breasts and bottoms and pubic hair, but the actual remarkable thing was the way the performers exposed themselves in other ways.
All the performers are Cabaret/Burlesque/Fringe people. Some are burlesque dancers, some are strippers, some musicians, drag queens and often these performances don’t include speaking to an audience. They are all parts of cabaret that are about razzle dazzle, titillation and boldness. Seen & Heard gives a rare and remarkable glimpse into the lives of these performers who are often making their art from behind a facade of nipple tassels, fake eyebrows, layers of make up, loud music and glaring lights.
Each of tonight’s performers (which changes from night to night) tells a story about their lives that are at times funny, harrowing, sincere, inspirational, heartbreaking and heart warming. Each performs a part of their act then tells a story (or the other way around). Our host (and curator of the show) is pint sized and curvalicious Becky Lou, whose opening number is a classic burlesque balance of humour and sexy. Her story is a tale of awakening sexuality, teenage ignorance, dread and panic.
It sets the tone very distinctly at the start. Towering drag queen Karen From Finance tells a very sad tale of awakening and loss, before camping it up with a traditional drag song with some spectacular piano miming. Amazonian striptease artist Frankie Valentine is literally touching the ceiling with her showgirl headdress, before taking it off and everything else. She talks about very specific body confidence, with grace and humour. Mojo Jujo is a singer with a very authentic fifties tone, her story is of friendship, loss and shoes.
I first saw her three years ago in an all female Elvis show in the Cabaret Festival (Hail to the King) , she was amazing then, as she was this evening. The final act of the evening was Adelaide’s own Liz Cahalan. A burlesque performer and the engine behind the Beyonce based dance and exercise classes Bey-Dance. Her story is about becoming a mother, and the ways that being connected to another biological human being you have created can change, challenge and reward you.
It is, like many of the spoken sections of this show, intimate, confessional, open and honest in a really raw and engaging way. The sharing of these stories running the gamut of emotions, is beautifully balanced by the glammed up cabaret turns each artist peforms to start or end their time on stage.
Packing an unexpected emotional punch Seen & Heard is a remarkable thing to see this Fringe. You really should go and experience this for yourself.
A quick mention of The Henry Austin, the venue tucked away in Chesser Street in the city. The space for Henrietta’s is a downstairs room, but it is intimate and a perfect size for this show. Having only recently visited the restaurant (Valentines Day) I can tell you the food was amazing and the service exceptional.
Seen & Heard is on at Henrietta’s at The Henry Austin from 8-19 March. Tickets from Fringe-Tix.
Review by Ian Bell