Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre
“Bisbaret” may be, at is core, a celebration of Brisbane and its artists, but its latest outing at Metro Arts also has a touch of an international feel as performer Thien Pham, embarks on a film noir cold open clip chronicle of his beret-clued search through some of Brisbane’s iconic spots to uncover the city’s artistic degenerate cabaret underbelly. As the beret hunt is brought from screen to stage, we are reminded of our right to be entertained…. and that we are over its coming 90-minute duration.
The show, which is fast becoming a Brisbane institution, is created and hosted by musical comedian Sophie Banister and musician Pham, and unfolds as a curated variety night bringing audiences a smorgasbord of local talent, in this instance in a one night only return as part of the 2023 Queensland Cabaret Festival. The international flavour continues with its first act and the show’s from-then house band, The View From Madeleine’s Couch (led by Anje West and Kym Ambrose with Owen Newcomb on bass, Lachlan Hawkins/Paul Hudson on drums and Bruce Woodward on guitar), which shares some swaying Portuguese and Brazilian bossa nova sounds to ease us into the show’s easy-going vibe. It continues, too in later-show appearance of Indian-fusion musician Menaka Thomas, whose catchy original number ‘My Eyes Can See’ is infectiously soul-stirring with audience clap-along in shared celebration, while also allowing feature of talented musicians Meg Burstow on keys and Tsoof Baras on drums.
Audience involvement is a key part of the entire show’s sensibility and success. Dynamic local favourite drag disco gremlin GoGo Bumhole (in some fabulous green boots), has us seat-dancing along in unison to a pumping (#literally) Body Rockers number. And her final act interactions with Whilhelmina bring some great comic moments and all sorts of chaotic energy. Add in some local flora funniness from comedian Taylor Edwards, and this “Brisbaret” does as its promises and gives us a great variety show of some of the city’s talent.
Energy never wanes, thanks to the upbeat between-act interaction of the show’s hosts. The dynamic duo of Banister and Pham have a natural rhythm to their banter, seen before in “All Day Breakfast With Sophie And Thien”. Their genuine enthusiasm for what they are doing makes in it easy to love it all as they weave local, topical and personal aspects into their own numbers, such as a musical exploration of the problems that come from heading on holiday as part of a bigger than 2 adults, 2 children family and, later, condemnation of the cost of living villain of our times. Indeed, their organic approach is what gives the show so much of its charm, especially in an ad-lib filled facilitation of the audience participation portion of the evening in response to shocking recent retail news. The No Myer, Myer Centre game, complete with bin chicken tokens, is lots of fun in this, and also its nostalgic relatable mentions of the dragon roller coaster, not being able to find a food court table or taking the wrong escalator to the bus stop.
Appropriately given its title, Brisbane is at the core of the fabric of “Brisbaret”, and its embrace of this is what gives the show so much of its unique character. The additional touch of having The View From Madeleine’s Couch as house band, snippetting the songs of Brisbane-based bands like Powderfinger, Regurgitator and The Go-Betweens between sets, shows the attention the detail that is belied by the rough and ready façade and random assortment of performers. The shared space of the “Brisbaret” stage may facilitate an unusual cabaret underbelly mix of local performers, however, its central celebration of their individuality and uniqueness is perfectly aligned with the sentiment of the Queensland Cabaret Festival. Even so, if you missed this March outing, there is always the next “Brisbaret” at the Brisbane Comedy Festival come early May.