ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL: The electric atmosphere of this contemporary Harlem jazz club that jumps and jives like it’s 1933 was considerably reduced by a lack of seating and poor sightlines.
Throw in a couple of alligators and Jon Voigt, maybe a banjo or two and a slow crawl of a river, and you could be right back in the speakeasies of the Bayous. Unfortunately even in the roughest speakeasy there were seats for the patrons. But not in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room.
Only half the audience were provided with bottom supports, the rest having to sit on the floor, dodging spilled red wine and upturned glasses. And when those closest to the front were encouraged to ‘dance’ (think stand and sway – effectively blocking the view for everyone else), the showboat sunk back into the swamps of the Mississippi and drowned in its own bad audience management.
Which was a shame, because there’s talent in them thar artistes. Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants, together with MC James Grim and the Jitterbeetles chorus line have distilled contemporary cabaret through a still of good moonshine. Think Weimar Cabaret, juke joints of the Deep South, and the Harlem jazz clubs of the 1930’s; throw in a mix of burlesque, and enough titillation and tap dancing to have you searching amongst feathered fans and tattoos for more surprises, and you’ll be doing the cakewalk right back to the Cotton Club, or shaking your tush at the stage door of the Apollo Theatre.
There’s a lot to be said for authenticity, and The Jitterbug Club have certainly captured the vibe of Thirties’ jive, giving it their own brilliant shoe shine. But this particular Harlem shuffle tripped up because many couldn’t see the show in its entirety – I guess life isn’t always a cabaret.
The Jitterbug Club
The Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
June 24 – 25
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
June 10 – 25