Artspace, Thu Jun 19
Vocally there is nothing that Robyn Loau cannot do. She can kill Michael Jackson, Kate Bush and Annie Lennox – all seriously impressive feats. She can also kill her old Girlfriend songs like Take It From Me. Her range, power and tone are captivating. Add to that a smile that could melt icebergs and a cheeky sense of humour and it’s a good mix: Loau is an engaging performer.
No Ordinary Girlfriend is a journey through her life, starting with her dysfunctional early family life and the music that saved her from that chaos; her experience of finding herself through the Johnny Young Talent School; her years as a mega successful pop star as part of girl group Girlfriend; and the subsequent years out of the spotlight.
The show really soared when Loau interacted on stage with other performers. Her voice blended beautifully with Kristen Fletcher’s, and Fletcher accompanied Loau flawlessly both vocally and on piano. A small moment where the two women harmonised was magical and I found myself wishing for more. Loau also brought other friends on stage; seeing Jak Housden rock the guitar on Sick With Love was a another highlight. It is a satisfyingly gritty number that still sounds as good today as it did in 1997.
In a quiet, reflective moment Loau spoke of her experience with Richard Branson’s Siva Pacifica project, and her dance performance of a song produced as part of that project showcased her Polynesian heritage with a delicate, silken and evocative dance.
The songs Loau chose to tell her story were well suited to the storyline and Loau performed them with something pretty close to perfection. She engaged comfortably with the audience, but the show lacked somewhat in its scripting. Loau began stories and didn’t finish them. She gave us snippets but then didn’t follow them through, leaving the audience hanging. I wanted her to go deeper. Hints were dropped and stories were started but there was little sense of continuity throughout the performance. It was as though Loau started out to weave a carpet but ended up just with tassels. She did however develop a nice theme: what is true success? Loau has seen what it looks like in the glittery world of pop princesses and she knows that’s no definition of success. Instead she values “the little things I hold in my heart”. I couldn’t agree more.
by Lynette Washington
Robyn Loau performs No Ordinary Girlfriend at Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Fri Jun 20.