ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL REVIEW: Love Is..

The Higher Ground Theatre on Light Square (in the centre of Adelaide) is a great, intimate venue for this pan-historical, cross-cultural, knock-your-socks-off cabaret show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL REVIEW: Love Is..
The Higher Ground Theatre on Light Square (in the centre of Adelaide) is a great, intimate venue for this pan-historical, cross-cultural, knock-your-socks-off cabaret show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Take along your Significant Other, but be sure to buy all the drinks lest they be waylaid by the sugar-sweet bar staff, and make sure at least one of you has the morning off work because this show is all about love and it’s sure to put you in the mood for romance. Tom Jones, eat your heart out. If you thought the Fat Man of Love was Barry White, think again because front man Harry Van Venetie is the guy for the job. Special nod to the spectacular Miss April (April Berry) who belts out an absolute pearler of a second number, Bec JM who sultries up the stage in classic femme fatale style about halfway through, the Brass Monkeys on trumpets, Dan Burt on the timeless (and my personal fave) accordion and of course composer and saxophonist extraordinaire, Terry Jones, under whose watchful eye the whole evening unfolds. On first walking into the dim, red-lit cabaret space I wasn’t sure whether we were in Weimar Berlin or turn-of-the-century Montmartre. The opening passionate debate – with heart-string tugging accordion accompaniment – between pimpish, plush-leopard clad Harry van Venetie, aka the ‘Fat Man of Love’ and his French paramour, actor Maria Scicchitano quickly cleared that up. I could almost taste the absinthe, and I probably could have given the prompt, discreet table service – that is, if I hadn’t had a review to write later. Although we began in Paris, a fitting location for a brief, bittersweet meditation on the evils, nay, the thrills of love, we soon moved to the wrong side of the US tracks with some gutsy, bluesy reminiscing on the delights of youthful romance, from thence to that first slow dance and ensuing heartbreak amid the underground speakeasies of the twenties and thirties. In between there was some dark, Nick Cave-esque Bible thumping, a little bit of country, a hint of swing and a whole lot of old-style jazz grooves. Terry Jones had the crowd in the palm of his hand with his intoxicating tunes and scorching turns on the sax, while Marlborough-throated Harry Van Venetie has just the right amount of hard bitten, world weary ennui to match the seedy jazz sounds of some of the early numbers, with enough charm to soften up the sweet, tender dance grooves before hitting us with something not unlike 70s funk. His sandpaper vocals underscored the beautiful vintage style of Terry Jones’ compositions; a special treat being a deeply-felt, sax-heavy instrumental ode to a loved one. All in all we really enjoyed ‘Love Is ..’. The only thing we were disappointed with was that the show ran so fast; neither of us could believe it had been an hour long. We had a warm fuzzy feeling when we came out, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of grit for those twice shy and despite a blistering encore we were left wanting more. Part philosophy, part dedication to that most blissful and painful of emotional states, yet entirely enjoyable, Love Is whatever you want it to be, and this time, it’s one hell of a cabaret. ‘Love is..’ has a short Adelaide Fringe Festival season from 12-14 March at 9.30pm only. Tickets Adult $28, concession $20, group $25

Liz Black

Friday 13 March, 2009

About the author

Liz Black is a freelance writer currently living in Adelaide. She writes food, fiction, farce and, very occasionally, fact. When it comes to Fringe shows, she likes Flavour You Can See and air-conditioning.