String: An Odd Evening with Tyrone and Lesley
Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre
With cabaret tables in addition to the usual stall seating, Metro Arts’ New Benner Theatre is like a red-door, knock-twice underworld paradise speakeasy for “String”… if speakeasy entertainment was to come from an odd couple like Tyrone (David Megarrity) and Lesley (Samuel Vincent) wearing fez and bowler hats, sharing peculiar songs about bodily functions, peppercorns and the length of a piece of piece of string.
Strung together from original tunes of their past albums, as well as premiering new songs from the forthcoming album ‘String’, the show is presented in accompaniment of vintage slide images of a 1950s day trip around Brisbane (visuals assembled by Nathan Sibthorpe). The flea-market found slides, which come courtesy of a mystery photographer, give us gorgeous images of gardens, roads, the city and suburbia, and work wonderfully as a framing device. It’s like a cross between a concert and slide night. And as if the award-winning duo’s ukulele and double bass big-and-little pairing accompaniment is not interesting enough, there is also the clever irreverence of many of the song’s lyrics and rhymes … think of the “it was ciao bella; now I’m a capella” lament in ‘Unaccompanied’.
It’s all quite cheeky, however, there is also a lovely sentiment to do with moving on around life’s corners and not dwelling in matters of perhaps, which fits with the pairing’s promise of ‘light music for dark times’. Indeed, there is an appealing optimism woven into things, to subtly pull on audience heart strings in stop-and-breathe contemplation of how we spend our time between each day’s sunrise and sunset, supported by accomplished musicality and entertaining stagemanship.
Megarrity and Vincent are absolutely in sync with complementary physical movements, with an intricacy befitting a 20-year collaboration. The celebrated local musicians create some splendid sounds, such as in the instrumental number ‘Roads’. Like a song from an earlier time, ‘Old Fashioned’ starts with a whistle and includes an impressive double bass showcase solo from Vincent. And the hints of other melodies that whisper through numbers like the eponymous hit single ‘Bear With Me’, give a sense of comfort to listeners.
A craftedness of light and shade within the setlist’s curation means that sentimental moments are complemented by a healthy dose of humour. Megarrity has an easy-listening voice (Penn and Teller style we don’t hear from Vincent as Lesley). And even then, he is a man of few words as he throws out concepts to the audience with only the scantest of contextuslisation. The numbers speak for themselves however, (even when with kazoo accompaniment), and, appropriately, it is all about them.
More whimsical than eccentric, the deceptively-simple “String: An Odd Evening with Tyrone and Lesley” is charming avant-garde entertainment, which makes it an entirely fitting inclusion in the 2022 Queensland Cabaret Festival’s celebration of creativity, music and storytelling that breathes new life into the cabaret canon. The gentlemen songsters may appear as if they are from a different era, but their messaging is very aptly of the now. If only their show’s journey and its short and sharp song snippets were just a little longer.