Blak Cabaret
by Melynda von Wayward
Reviewed on Sat, 29/03/2014 - 06:10am
Melynda von Wayward Total Reviews: 36
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Blak Cabaret
Theatre review by Melynda von Wayward

What: Blak Cabaret - as part of the 2014 Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival
Where: Malthouse Theatre
When: February 7 ‚?? 9, 2014
Produced by: Jason Tamiru
Performed by: Kutcha Edwards, Joey Geia, Bart Willoughby, Uncle Herb Patten, Illana Atkinson, Tiriki Onus, Black Elvis, Kevin Kropinyeri, Nikki Ashby, Den the Fish with MC Kylie Belling.

I had the privilege of attending the opening night of Blak Cabaret at this year‚??s Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival, and being entertained by a star-studded cast of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers was a truly fun and wonderful experience.

First up was the legendary singer/songwriter Bart Willoughby, formerly of the band ‚??No Fixed Address‚??, singing a reggae style song on the piano. Growing up listening to the Murri show on community radio 4ZZZ, I often heard the song ‚??We have survived‚??, but little did I know that one day I would be standing in front of the man that sang this profound song, shaking his hand and thanking him. What an honour.

We were then entertained by the prophetic poetry of Den the Fish, who reminded us that by working together we can make the utopian dream of reconciliation a reality. Of course as a white person I cringe every time I am reminded about the atrocities of this country, but if nothing else his poetry makes you think about the past and how we can heal the present to create the future.

It wasn‚??t long before the striking and infamous ‚??Black Elvis‚??, resplendent with white jumpsuit, quiff and killer mutton chops, was shaking his pelvis and crooning to us in true Elvis style. I even met his daughter later, aptly named Lisa-Marie.

The ‚??black humour‚?? of comedian Kevin Kropinyeri soon had us all in stitches as he left us pondering the great Aussie surname nickname, and with handles like Johnno (Johnson), Ando (Anderson), and Davo (Davis) we could only imagine what Tony Abbott‚??s nickname would be‚?¶

Finally to wind up the first half was the soulful voice of Illana Atkinson, who wowed us with two of her original compositions. No doubt this talented singer/songwriter will be hitting the world stage in the not too distant future.

Bringing in the second half of the show was the energetic dancing of Nikki Ashby who blended modern dance, hip hop and soul dancing to a menagerie of music. By the end of her act I felt like I needed to immediately go disco dancing. This girl has certainly got it going on.

‚??Australia‚??s Got Talent‚?? finalist and the oldest performer of the evening, Uncle Herb Patten, was soon amazing everyone with the brilliance of his gum leaf music. Playing renditions of songs by blowing through a gumleaf, while educating the audience at the same time, I can see why he almost won the talent show. What a Legend!

However it wasn‚??t just modern music that was presented to the audience. The huge operatic voice of Tiriki Onus was on display as he sang an aria from La Traviata, all the while relating it back to his Indigenous roots and the importance of belonging to country. This talented man is fortunate enough to have the first lady of Indigenous opera, Deborah Cheetham, as his mentor and I am sure we will be seeing Tiriki on the world stage as well in the near future.

To complete the evening were two other legendary singer/songwriters ‚?? Kutcha Edwards and Joey Geia. While Kutcha performed a recently written song about the longevity of love that moved me to tears, Joey performed a beautiful rendition of an Archie Roach song that seemed to be speaking about the love for his wife Ruby Hunter. And to top it all off both Kutcha and Joey, along with Uncle Herb, Tiriki and the audience, sang one of Joey‚??s most famous songs ‚??Yil Lull‚??.

But despite all of the songs, tears and laughter, it was the stories behind each performer‚??s piece and what it meant to them personally as an Indigenous person that really hit home to me. It made me aware that the generosity of Indigenous Australians, and the willingness to share their history, dreamtime and culture is profound, and that we all need to sit down with an Elder and respectfully listen.

With Kylie Belling as the cheeky but stylish MC and a special guest appearance by choreographer and dancer Albert David, there is no doubt that with Jason Tamiru at the helm, Blak Cabaret 2015 will be just as deadly, if not even deadlier.
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