Confide in cabaret

I Can Keep A Secret (Babushka)

Judith Wright Centre, Performance Space

November 12 – 15

We all get hurt by love
And we all have our cross to bear
But in the name of understanding now
Our problems should be shared

So four-woman cabaret troupe Babushka uses Kylie’s lyrics to encourage its audience members to ‘Confide in Me’. And as an audience, we do; it’s like group therapy with bling, only it’s not covered on Medicare. The crassest language and crudest confessions, beyond just Spice Girls mourning and Kochie fantasy revelations, however, come from those on stage as deep dark secrets pour from diary confessionals and reflections.

A good cabaret wants a well thought-out progression of ideas and songs with a through-line from the beginning to the end. And with its titular focus of secrets, the show certainly does this. From little white lies to whopping big deceptions, we are told of all sorts of secrets. It is a theme that takes the audience to some pretty dark places courtesy of songs like ʻLotionʼ by The Greenskeepers and ʻJohn Wayne Gacy Jr.ʼ by Sufjan Stevens, because series killers, especially, have their secrets.

The key to cabaret is balance, familiar and unfamiliar songs, humourous and serious songs, different tempos and styles. And in this regard, “I Can Keep A Secret” certainly delivers in its musical mash-ups, from Sia to Gyote and some classic arias. And there are some modern classics too, with interesting new arrangements. A ‘White Wedding’ encore and the group’s  namesake ‘Babushka’ are show highlights.

Brisbaneʼs Alicia Cush, Bethan Ellsmore, Arlie McCormick and Judy Hainsworth are all in demand professionals and together they bring a dynamism to the hour long show. The eclectic mix of songs also serves to allow everyone’s strengths to be showcased, whether in four-part harmonies, duets or solos. Good girl Hainsworth shines from the moment she sings of her want to be wicked and, fresh from “Women In Voice”, Ellsmore (featuring in voice and on violin) again shares her amazing operatic range in delicate delivery of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’.

Great artists can always surprise. And, although the eclecticism, of “I Can Keep A Secret” will be appealing to some but off-putting to others, overall, it is a beautiful but baffling show of the dirty and flirty talents of those pushing the boundaries of traditional cabaret. Babushka, Babushka, Babushka-ya-ya!


Photo c/o –


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