Half man half woman

Ramon Martinez Mendoza and Jarrah Strunin

THE TOFF: Right from the beginning this talented musical duo, performing together with drummer Tony Floyd and double bass player Shannon Birchall, generate a powerful energy that both leaves the audience breathless and gives them the space to enjoy song-by-song their new album, 'Half Man Half Woman'.
Half man half woman
We were sitting in the intimate surroundings of the red-lit Toff in Town casually sipping some wine. Suddenly a dapperly dressed man appeared on the instrument filled stage. Without saying a word, he calmly sat down with his guitar and began to play, drawing in the audience with a Spanish inspired melody. After finishing the song he finally spoke, “Now I’d like to introduce my other half”. He extended his right hand behind him and Deborah Conway joined him on stage. She too sat and picked up a guitar and within moments her beautiful voice filled the room while Willy Zygier skilfully accompanied her. Right from the beginning this talented musical duo, performing together with drummer Tony Floyd and double bass player Shannon Birchall, generate a powerful energy that both leaves the audience breathless and gives them the space to enjoy song-by-song their new album, Half Man Half Woman. This latest disc is a collection of twelve songs that speak about life, love and the human condition with touching honesty and a good dose of humour. Conway’s formidable voice takes centre stage; throughout the show it is fascinating to see the dynamic between her and Zygier. Zygier has a peaceful presence while Conway is more extroverted. There are several amusing occasions where she tries to challenge his Zen-like aura, directing meaningful glances at him while singing what may be particularly significant words for the two of them, something which happens numerous times during the song, Spoken Like a Man. The four musicians show their skill and accomplishment, effortlessly shifting from high energy numbers such as Take Pity on the Beast to beautiful melodic pieces such as Lying by Your Side. Another stand out point that contributes to the theatre of the whole experience is the vast array of instruments on stage. Zygier and Conway between them play several different acoustic guitars, a steel guitar, a ukulele and a mandolin. The music is exceptional but what makes the night even more special is Conway’s comic ability as a storyteller and her band members’ reactions to each account. Introducing the song Cul de Sac Conway relates a quirky story from her childhood about an unfortunate man with a weight problem and a fridge full of iceberg lettuces and counterfeit money. The audience is in stitches as are her fellow band members. All of these elements make for a fabulous night. The CD Half Man Half Woman is Conway and Zygier’s first release in six years and has twelve new tracks. As if these amazing songs were not enough, the CD comes with the special gift of a colourful pop-up orchid. A little bit funny, perhaps slightly quirky but definitely beautiful, much like Conway herself. Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier Half Man Half Woman Tour 3 Jun The Toff in Town VIC 4 Jun The Thornbury Theatre VIC 5 Jun The Palais - Hepburn Springs VIC 16 Jun Lizottes NSW 18 Jun The Basement NSW 19 Jun Lizottes Newcastle NSW 20 Jun Clarendon Guesthouse NSW 3 Jul Tilley's Devine Cafe Gallery ACT 9 Jul Governor Hindmarsh Hotel SA 16 Jul The Tivoli QLD 30 Jul Ruby’s Lounge VIC 6 Aug Friends Restaurant WA 26 Aug Country Club Casino TAS
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Ramon Martinez Mendoza and Jarrah Strunin are reviewers for ArtsHub.