Adelaide Fringe 2012
A three piece band, headed by a dramatic and magnetic lead singer, present small snippets of love, loss, woe and wonder. Songs are interspersed within the scenarios, ranging from indie rock to rollicking disco tunes. The beginning of the performance was wearisome and somewhat confusing in terms of theme, not helped at all by the dour venue. I recommend seeing Queer: The Wicked Webs We Weave however, as your patience is rewarded, the second half of the show being full of passion and pathos.
The four people on stage are dressed in black. The lead singer has painted black tears, reminiscent of Pierrot, trickling down his face. The beginning monologue is about a heroin overdose. The second scenario concerns a lover whose husband leaves her to venture into the wild, the lead singer reading aloud from a dusty old novel. The third scenario involves a night out that goes horribly wrong, and is told through the protagonist verbalising the text messages that he sends to a friend. The fourth act is similar to the third, as the main character, a naïve thirteen year old, recalls how he turned the tables on a sexual predator by speaking to the audience via his diary entries. This is not a happy show. But, it is a fascinating show. As the front man Charles Sanders explains at the end, it is a show about love gone wrong, and yet also about those that are brave enough to love in the first place.
As the lead singer, Sanders is fantastic. His voice resonated throughout the cramped venue, and he has the looks of The Mighty Boosh’s Vince Noir combined with the endearingly soulful vocal pitch of Placebo’s Brian Molko. The songs themselves were a mix of artists, with The Divinyls, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Nick Cave and Amy Winehouse all part of the discography. However, Sanders really shines when he belts out a poppy and pumped up version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. Better yet, in the last scenario, when he performed a cabaret number, he went for broke. He strutted, stomped, and sang into the microphone so hard that his cheeks bloomed scarlet, causing the audience to not merely clap, but also whoop and whistle at the end.
The songs were appropriate and selected with care, except it would have been preferable to have smoother segues between the scenarios. It was jarring to suddenly go from an old-fashioned story of doomed lovers to a scene set in a nightclub, for example. The second scenario was overly melodramatic and dull. It was like Victorian bodice-ripper pub rock, but it is worth sticking with Queer, as halfway through the show it becomes far more engaging and emotional, specifically addressing queer themes such as AIDS, the club scene, and budding teenage homosexuality.
The bigger problem here was the venue. Art Base is first of all hard to find (you need to enter through the café, for future reference), and then once you’re down there, it reeks of fungus and dust. Seated at the back I could barely see the stage because of all the heads in my way, and the black painted walls were so depressing they threatened to detract from the performance. Thankfully the performance itself, owing much to Sander’s energy, focus and allure, still held the spotlight.