Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Wonderful harmonies, innovative arrangements of familiar pieces and some great costumes.
What has a World War II aircraft crew got in common with trio Anna Braithwaite, Tanja Holt and Michael Roulston’s successful collaboration playing at the Fringe this year? I suppose that could make an interesting Fringe trivia quiz question but both, it seems, were inspired by that Andrews Sisters song Shoo Shoo Baby. The aircraft crew named their B17 bomber after the song – and the bomber survives to this day in a museum somewhere in the US. The trio have taken their name from the song and, building on the success of their previous offering, Delicious, have written a show that aims to cover the entire history of cabaret, no mean feat given that they only had an hour to do it.
They gave it a good try in a piece that never wanted for pace and contained some innovative arrangements of the familiar and not so familiar. The aim, we were told, was for the singers to prove to the Arts Council that cabaret is art and not entertainment. And so we embark on a whistle-stop tour of the cabaret world, starting in Berlin, hopping back to Gay Paree, leaping forward to the 1950’s and then lurching on towards the present day. We also visited the Cotton Club and, completing the eclectic mix, a John Denver tune sung in Franglais.
Anna and Tanja both have stunning voices – they are both trained opera singers – and they used their extensive vocal range to good effect at every musical opportunity. They were complemented by Michael Roulston who provided support both from the keyboard and as a more than capable baritone. The show had also been cleverly staged even if the set did look a little busy at times. Cabaret allows for flamboyant costumes and we were not short changed there either.
Yet we ended up leaping a bit from pillar to post in what was at times a desperate attempt to prove cabaret was more than entertainment. And there were gremlins that should have been ironed out by now. If you are going to have your cast interact with the audience, adjust the lighting so we can all see what’s going on. And surely anyone knows that using only a red wash for lights results in the audience being left completely in the dark, as we were. Several times. If you’re expecting an expose of the history of cabaret, then you’re going to leave a bit disappointed. But if you want to hear some top class singing from two talented ladies, go along before the final curtain falls on Sunday. Only don’t sit in the front row if you want to avoid being teased or clambered over. Especially if your name’s Adrian – although hopefully he will have got over the shock in a couple of days.