La Bohème, Wed 2 Mar
Jennifer Kingwell has a great voice but she doesn’t rest on the fact. She takes the hard road looking for unique phrasing, and experimenting with pitch and tonal variation. And it doesn’t always work. And she takes a lot of risks as she presents a unique form of cabaret that is not obviously sequential, and leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
The Lotus Eaters in Greek mythology were a race who grazed on their island’s narcotic native plant. Odysseus visited this island on his journey back home to Ithaca where his wife Penelope was waiting for him. This story of The Odyssey is used as an anchoring narrative while Kingwell sings tunes that take us back into the deep past and far forward into the future via David Bowie’s Life On Mars. In between songs, occasional narrations comment on history, Kingwell’s embarrassing encounter with Bob Brown, and wistful observations about the nature of life.
Kingwell is a commanding performer – quite riveting in fact – with a bewitching dramatic presence that enables her to take her audience with her to unusual places. A sad drunken interlude is an offbeat take on what alcohol can do to searching souls, and may owe something to Greek tragedy.
Accompanied by the accomplished Aurora Strings Quartet, the musical arrangements are effective with mostly minimal, spare string arrangements to complement Kingwell’s vocals. Diction is sometimes a problem, as if often the case when one is aiming for a stylised, individual form of vocal delivery, but in one respect this just added to the mystery about the intent of the show. She lauds Odysseus: despite his shortcomings he never wavered from his goal. And that seems to be an apt description of The Lotus Eaters.
It’s a quirky piece of cabaret that is undeniably enjoyable. It would be easy to be critical about the things that don’t quite work, but Kingwell deserves credit for daring to be different and challenging herself and conservative notions of cabaret.
The Lotus Eaters: A Chamber Cabaret continues at La Bohème from 9pm until Sun 6 Mar.
Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Greta Punch