A sample of reviews.

Cabaret: Kim David Smith – Morphium Kabarett
performed at the 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival


Kim David Smith strolls in from the back of the spiegeltent like a male Marlene Dietrich, dressed in tails, top hat, heels and glittering makeup, silently touching audience members as he passes. It’s a reverent beginning to a show that combines the best of what cabaret is about – heartbreaking songs, witty, sly banter and subversiveness. The key to what this show is about is in the title – the German spelling of Kabarett flags the pre-war Berlin aesthetic that permeates every minute, not least in Kim’s androgynous made-up face that’s prettier than a guy has a right to be. He has the voice to back it up, taking us through a repertoire of songs made famous by Dietrich, Lotte Lenya, and many others of the era– ‘The Song of Black Max’ and ‘Pirate Jenny’ are highlights, and Weimar-ised versions of Kylie Minogue’s ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ and my favourite, ‘Dracula’s Tango’ by 80s Toto Coello. Whatever the song, Kim imbues it with a tragic edge, drawing out the broken dreams, fading hopes and fighting spirit within each song, underlined by his simmering sexuality. Between songs, his ‘unrehearsed monologues’ provide light relief and play on his diva persona. If you’ve always longed for a time machine to transport yourself to the heady days of the Weimar cabaret scene, this is as close as you’ll get to it.
5 stars

Originally published online at


Cabaret: The Tiger Lillies – The Very Worst of the Tiger Lillies
performed at the 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival


The Tiger Lillies were last here in 2014 for The Adelaide Festival, performing an epic retelling of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at Her Maj, with layers of animated projections that blurred the line between art and reality. This is an entirely different show – just the band in their trademark face paint and their eclectic rabble of instruments. As soon as they take the stage, it feels like we’ve stumbled into something special – the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent feels like a little club in the backstreets of some wonderfully seedy part of town. Singer Martyn Jacques beguiles with tales of tired prostitutes, cross-dressing disabled aunts, and sailors out for a good time, taking up the accordion, guitar and piano. Adrian Stout is a scene-stealer on contra bass, musical saw and Theremin, while Jonas Golland on drums delights at the front of the stage. The songs are darkly humorous, laden with eloquent doom, broken dreams and misfits. It’s a joyous romp of gypsy punk cabaret with more than a nod to pre-war Berlin and three-penny operas. Near the end of the set, they called for requests, and we were treated to several more songs, including ‘Banging in the Nails’ and’Violin Time’. Throughout, the audience was deeply appreciative though very polite, which was the only thing out of place – The Tiger Lillies deserve a rowdy crowd. 4.5 stars

Originally published online at


Theatre: Slingsby Theatre – The Young King
performed at The Adelaide Festival


Lovingly adapted by Nicki Bloom, the story tells of a young king the night before his coronation. Growing up unaware of his royal heritage and returned to take the throne, we’re shown the twists and turns of his family history and share his joy at the finery he’ll be given for the ceremony. However, as the night goes on, the young king discovers the price others have had to pay for the luxuries he covets, and he must choose between maintaining the status quo or acting on his conscience.

From the get-go, the experience is intimate and immersive. Held in the former Dazzeland in the Myer Centre, we’re greeted by a courtier who escorts us to the kingdom – a corridor-lined space created by black drapes. We’re taught rules, assigned roles, entrusted with secrets and led to craft tables to create our personal crowns (which becomes a kind of ritual, marking our passage from the outer world to Slingsby’s realm). We’re then ushered into the intimate theatre space, where the young king (Tim Overton) awaits us.

Wendy Todd’s seemingly simple set is cleverly designed to transport us into the fairytale world of old kingdoms, ancient forests, and insightful dreams. Overseen by executive producer Jodi Glass and director Andy Packer’s trademark whimsical and wonder-inducing style, and coupled with Geoff Cobham’s sparse yet effective lighting, the scene is set for the magical journey ahead. Shadow puppetry, intimate lighting, smoke effects and scent are used to feed our imaginations, as is the achingly beautiful musical score by Quincy Grant.

Overton shines as the young king, exuding innocence and warmth, and his more powerful scenes near the end are tear-inducing. He is joined by veteran actor Jacqy Phillips, who is mesmerising in her various roles, transforming in an instant into characters as diverse as the scary old king and free-spirited princess to a whole crowd of townspeople and a painfully outraged Avarice (in one of the more dramatic dream sequences, taking on Overton’s smug Death).

Slingsby has never been a company to shy away from dark themes. Greed, selfishness, death, slavery and the price others pay for our luxuries are all explored. Slingsby grabs the heart of the fairy tale structure – with all its darkness and danger interwoven with joy and wonder – to take us through a full range of emotions before the ultimately uplifting climax.

As the show ends, we’re in for a final surprise, mixing cast and audience – something that Slingsby sees as being an important part of the theatre experience – so make sure you don’t have to rush off.

My expectations were not only met, but exceeded by this beautiful show. I was left feeling that not only had I experienced something truly special, but that the world is a better place for having a company like Slingsby in it.

Originally published on the Currant magazine blog.


Live Music: An Evening With Amanda Palmer
Performed for The Adelaide Festival 


Amanda Palmer is labelled many things – punk cabaret artist, performance artist, feminist art-pop singer, controversial internet figure, inspiring TEDx talker and author, art collective collaborator and most recently, mother. To her fans, she’s simply Amanda Fucking Palmer, and they’re out in force at Her Majesty’s Theatre to welcome her to the stage.

But first, we’re warmed up by Brendan Maclean (known to many from previous Fringe show Velvet), who’s stunning voice is spellbinding, and Mikelangelo, who treats us to a Leonard Cohen track before rushing off to his own gig.

Palmer kicks off her show from the balcony, with her trademark ukulele for ‘In My Mind’ – a song about the quest for self-acceptance. From there, the show delves into Palmer’s extensive back catalogue as well as some newer songs, including ‘A Mother’s Confession’ that has the crowd singing, “At least the baby didn’t die” in joyful chorus.

Palmer embodies what it is to be an artist. On stage, she gives everything, switching between thundering emotion and light-hearted playfulness in a heartbeat, unafraid of showing her own vulnerability or taking risks. It’s exciting and inspiring to watch.

Highlights include ‘Coin-Operated Boy’, ‘Not the Killing Type’, ‘Map of Tasmania’, ‘Vegemite (The Black Death)’, the menacing ‘Missed Me’ and the beautiful and tragic ‘Bed Song’, as well as duets with Brendan Maclean, including a stunning version of Bat For Lashes’ ‘Laura’. The encore sees Amanda unplug her ukulele and take to the edge of the stage for ‘Ukulele Anthem’, leaving us all on a high.

A couple of songs in, Palmer had announced she was suffering from a mystery illness and promised to turn any vomiting on stage into a piece of performance art. If this is Amanda Palmer at less than 100 percent, she must be perfection in full flight. 5 stars.

Originally published online at


Book: Belly dancing for beginners by Liz Byrski


Pan Macmillon Australia, Sydney
RRP: $32.95

Belly dancing is a bold, sensual dance that speaks about female power, and in Belly dancing for beginners, Byrski uses the dance to awaken that power within her very different characters. Gayle is a reserved librarian constrained by her marriage, while Sonya, a civil servant, is outgoing and fiercely independent. When they meet Marissa, a Harley-Davidson-riding, belly-dancing sixty-year-old, they impulsively join her belly dancing class. Quickly hooked, they are soon touring Australia with Marissa to demonstrate the dance to women in regional areas.

Of course, they get much more than they bargained for. Each woman has demons to face and, through the dance and their new friendships, they begin to do so. There’s plenty of laughs as the women fumble their way through self-discovery and those around them attempt to deal with the changes. But it’s the quiet, serious moments where Byrski really shines. It’s in these moments—a dawn greeted from the porch, a cup of tea alone at the kitchen table, a few moments snatched in the back garden—that we get a glimpse into the characters’ vulnerabilities and desires. Byrski has a knack for writing quiet solitude, creating a lovely sense of stillness.

But that’s not to give the impression that the book is ever slow. There’s enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing about possible links between characters and the true nature of their relationships with other characters, such as families, husbands and friends. Indeed, there’s an undercurrent of darkness, covering themes such as emotional abuse, rape, affairs, familial expectations, the sacrifices women make for others, and the personal cost of being true to themselves.

Byrski uses this tension skillfully, never letting it overwhelm the fun of the story. The darker aspects are always filled with hope, as the women confront their pasts and open themselves to new possibilities. Yet there’s a sharp twist at the end that left me feeling unsettled, mainly as it felt unnecessary and added little to the plot. There is often a tendency among writers of popular fiction to wrap everything up neatly, and I felt cheated by this. But this is a small criticism of what is essentially a well-crafted story.

What a pleasure it is to read about complex women in their fifties and sixties, who have long juggled the demands of work, family and society, not always successfully, and who continue to grow and learn. This is a warm-hearted book that can be easily digested in one sitting, but be assured the feeling of friendship and fun will stay with you much longer. And who knows, it might even inspire you to take up a new hobby! Belly dancing, anyone?

Originally published in Wet Ink magazine.