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Adelaide Fringe 2014

Lili La Scala: Siren

Lee Martin for Gag Reflex

Genre: Cabaret

Venue: The Idolise Spiegeltent - Garden of Unearthly Delights - Kadlitpina/Rundle Park, Cnr East Tce & Rundle Rd,, Adelaide


Low Down

A journey, a ship, the shifting of time and sands. Found songs, from the poetry of Masefield to the music of Tom Waits. Bewitching, haunting and mesmeric songs and stories.Stories about journeys.Stories about the sea.Timeless, beautiful songs. A Siren’s songs.


Inspired by the mythical Grecian Sirens that famously lured Ulysses’ sailors to their deaths, Lili La Scala crafted a cabaret act revolving around the oceans. The Idolise Spiegeltent was resplendent, with blue light shining down and mist rising up from an unseen smoke machine, and around us there were cockle shells sculpted into the pillars and façade. Lili herself was also impressive, made up to look like an old-world chanteuse, in a flowing dress of emerald and navy, hair wrapped up in the style of a beauty queen. It was a good start – the setting and star looked professional, and Lili glided around the room, her sweet soprano filling the space.

Her pianist Daniel was dapper and competent, and Lili’s voice is quite remarkable – high but strong, and infused with emotion. Every song she gave her all, and she choked up during Nick Cave’s ‘The Ship Song’ –  it looked genuine, but even if it was a calculated act, it was still quite moving.

The songs were a mix of contemporary and vintage – the only problem was, it became apparent by the middle of the show that only some of the songs would be given a title or a background story. For example, ‘Song to the Seals’ and ‘Dark Music’ had delightful little back stories to accompany why Lili had chosen them, and ‘The Ship Song’ was dedicated to an ex-lover.

But a Tom Waits song was sung, and I would have loved to have known the reason why that song was chosen and its title, for example. Also, at the beginning, Lili mentioned that when she was thinking about the show, she was adjusting to life as a new mother. But most of the songs seemed to be focused on either Paris, or ex-lovers, or ex-lovers from Paris. An Edith Piaf song was thrown in there that had nothing to do with the sea, it was just about how much Lili loved Paris.

It was around the middle of the show where things took a dip. In some between-songs banter, Lili was explaining how she had missed out on a job at the Crazy Horse because she couldn’t speak French. “And so instead of Paris, I’m now in… Adelaide,” she sighed. I don’t know if we were meant to laugh at that, but all there was from the audience was some uncomfortable fidgeting, and I certainly cooled on her after that. It seemed a bit unprofessional to sigh about a city when you’re supposed to be entertaining an audience from that city who paid almost $30 to come see you. It probably would have been best just to have kept singing.

Not all of Lili’s jokes landed (going around asking the audience about their first loves got awkward quickly), and whilst she started off walking around the tables and chairs, making the experience more interactive, towards the end she chose to just stay on the stage. Still, she elicited small smiles and chuckles here and there, and after the show she stayed outside near the door to ask people if they enjoyed the performance. I could see that some did, which is good, because according to Scala “word of mouth” is the only way that these shows get seen, so who knows, perhaps my review is redundant.

Ill-thought out comments about my city aside, Lili La Scala has a wonderful voice, and the aesthetics of the show were stunning. A bit more consistency would have been nice in regards to song back stories/titles and using the tent space, but the start of the show was at least very impressive.