Lady Beatle love love love

Lady Beatle (The Little Red Company)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

August 7 – 10


When The Little Red Theatre Company first bought “Lady Beatle” to La Boite, the show soon became one of my favourites of 2017. And from the moment Naomi Price bursts forth with the penultimate ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ it is clear that the tradition is set to continue with the smash hit cabaret’s return to Brisbane. Her appropriate dress of military-style jacket, retro round John Lennon mirrored glasses and fabulous boots (Costume Designer Leigh Buchanan) simultaneously sets the tone of swinging sixties London, but also the everywhereness of Liverpoolean grey. With the brilliant, virtuosic lonely hearts club band in accompaniment, we are thrown straight into the show’s journey through the Beatles’ immortal catalogue. And with reimagined and reinterpreted songs featuring sparkling original arrangements, what a ride it is set to be, both over the course of the opening night performance and for the duration of the show’s Australian Magical Mystery Tour.


If great cabaret is about taking people on a journey and giving them an experience as opposed to just singing some songs, then “Lady Beatle” is cabaret at its greatest and all you need for a wonderful night out. The songs are threaded together by a story of sorts and knowing how they will eventually unite does not diminish the show in re-experience. While the aha moment of revelation of the identity of Price’s character is lost, in its stead is an appreciation of the clever craftedness of its story’s tapestry throughout the show’s duration.

Like the collection of music we are celebrating, “Lady Beatle” is far from being one-note in its approach. Reimagining of the Fab Four’s songs bring them to new life in accompaniment of its tender and personal story. The musicians work wonderfully together to realise the show’s bold and diverse soundtrack and are also fittingly given their own times to shine. Most notably, on guitar, Jason McGregor’s solo makes ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ complete, while, on drums, Mik Easterman belts us into an upbeat, eclectic medley of ‘Love Me Do’, ‘Revolution’ and ‘Let It Be’.


Price’s voice is also as on-point as ever, ranging from rich reverberation in ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (also featuring a stunning string arrangement by Bass Guitarist Andrew Johnson) to the gentle emotion of a stripped-back ‘With a Little Help From My Friends” and the stirring strength of a poignantly heartfelt ‘Don’t Let Me Down’.


Jason Glenwright’s impressive lighting is as kaleidoscopic as the night’s soundtrack and represents a key component of the show’s experience, from its sparking accompaniment to ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ to bathing the Roundhouse Theatre space in blue for later yearning. And while lighting band members in separate colours seems like such a simple idea, it works perfectly to invigorate peppy early-career numbers of the ‘Twist & Shout’ sort. Indeed, lighting is integral in emphasising the musical mood throughout the show to its ‘Here Comes The Sun’ concluding celebration.

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The Little Red Theatre Company’s story of the Lady Beatle may not be the one you expect, but the show is all the better for this, especially given Price’s genuine charm as a performer. She is playful with the audience, often taking herself into the crowd, including to make a paired-back ‘Penny Lane’ an early highlight, and her energy is infectious. Even in the show’s emotional moments, in her hands, the experience still resonates with joy… because who doesn’t feel good in clap and sing-a-long to classics like ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Hey Jude’.

It might be 50 years since The Beatles’ historic final rooftop concert, but with creators Adam Brunes and Naomi Price’s “Lady Beatle”, the band’s biggest chart toppers are able live on anew. As its yellow submarine-sized tour across the country is sure to be, its experience seems to be over all too soon, leaving audience members departing with smiles on their faces, warmth in their hearts and wish for a soundtrack release in order to keep relieving its joy.

Another bloody (good) classic

Dracula (shake & stir theatre co & QPAC)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

August 13 – September 4


‘Another bloody classic’ is how shake & stir’s “Dracula” has been aptly marketed. And certainly there is a lot of blood in the company’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s now legendary 1897 novel. But there is also much more as the multi-award winning company brings a finesse to the fright.

“Dracula” represents shake & stir’s most technical show, a fact that that is easily appreciated upon view of the stage. However, this is a view not granted upon entry into the theatre whose stage remains shrouded in misty darkness until the show begins with the boom of the vampire’s menacing prologue. Indeed, this is a “Dracula” full of atmosphere thanks to its bold staging and Guy Webster’s electrifying, eerie sound design. Lighting represents some of Jason Glenwright’s best work. As white light pours through windows and doors to puncture the darkness, a sense of space is created that belies that Cremorne theatre’s small stage. Of most significance, however, is the versatility afforded by use of a large revolving stage, complete with tall stairwell to assist in creating a range of settings, including some for conversations high above the audience. Leigh Buchanan’s costumes, heavy in ornamentation and layers, also contribute considerably to the authentic aesthetic. And Dracula’s coat is simply majestic and sure to be the envy of everyone with a Gothic sensibility.

No member of the cast disappoints. As Jack Seward, Ross Balbuziente delivers the appropriately formal dialogue with aplomb and when attacked by Dracula, Lucy (Ashlee Lollback) and Mina (Nellie Lee) respond with reactions that represent fusion of fear and desire, in keeping with the reading of the text’s portrayal of vampirism as a metaphor for sexuality in the repressive Victoria era in which the novel was written. However, ultimately this is Nick Skubij’s show, despite being barely present in the second half of the play. The portrayal of one of the most famous characters in popular culture, could easily tip into the territory of parody, however, this is far from the case. His performance as a brooding, sinister title character and primary antagonist is entirely riveting, adding a fearful chill to the show’s highly-charged atmosphere as he creeps around the darkened corners of the stage, sometimes appearing in the glimmer of half-light as if from nowhere to startle the audience and characters alike.

The story is of young lawyer Jonathan Harker (Tim Dashwood) who visits Castle Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains. Alone and trapped within the castle walls, he discovers that his host Dracula wants more than just his presence at the dinner table. Leaving Jonathan and his castle behind, Dracula travels to London on a quest for seduction, true love and above all blood. And while remaining true to its origins, this “Dracula” is a mastery of theatrical momentum, emphasising intense emotion as the source of aesthetic experience as it brings to life the moments so vividly described in the novel. The suspense, although prevailing, is tempered by some superbly choreographed action, including a fantastic fight scene, and there are even some surprise comic comments courtesy of David Whitney’s deadpan delivery of Van Helsing’s observations.

Although Bram Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, to the risk of audience members being potentially de-sensitised to the story’s original horror. However, this is a risk without realisation in this version, which is, rather, a fitting, gripping tribute to this classic Gothic text. The production is uncompromising and uncomfortable (#inagoodway). The design is stylish, yet also conveys an overwhelming horror to creep into your bones, sure to satisfy audience members wishing to sink their teeth into this flirtation with the dark side. And it is easy to see why the season has already been extended, including for a unique midnight show experience (#ifyoudare).

Cabaret Couture

The Devil Wears Leigh Buchanan Return (Brisbane Powerhouse & Troy Armstrong Management)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

April 17 – 18

Following a sellout season at the 2014 Wonderland Festival cheeky devil and ever-likeable Leigh Buchanan is back with his confessional cabaret show “The Devil Wears Leigh Buchanan”. Literary allusions aside, this show is not a fashion parade but a collection of stories and songs from the Brisbane fashionista and Project Runway runner-up.

And Buchanan is quite the storyteller as he shares scandalous secrets and shows off his sensational Swarovskied Dorothy shoes. With tongue-in-cheek observations, the show starts almost like stand-up. Buchanan is clearly having the time of his life and has the audience eating out of his hand within minutes. Before long he is also singing up a storm of diva mashups, including a beautiful ‘I think it´s gonna rain today’. Indeed, there are many surprisingly serene musical moments in gentle contrast to its garish jokes.

From Vivienne Westwood to Tarjay, Buchanan knows fashion, yet the show is about so much more, as he outlines his journey from catwalk to cabaret, starting with his childhood in Ipswich and including his time in the UK, the reality behind reality tv contestant life and a naughty de-mystification of some iconic Aussie celebs. Stilettoed, devil-horned and wearing high waisted Katherine Hepburn pants, Buchanan is clearly a character. Not only this, but he is great at caricature, beyond mere stereotype, bringing drunk expat tranny Barbara Winsor Woo and intolerant, mouthy Nanna to comic life. He is also an excellent musical mimic.


When Foxtel viewed the initial episode of Project Runway, they requested a re-edit lest the show become known as ‘The Leigh Buchanan Show.’ If “The Devil Wears Leigh Buchanan” shows anything, it is they probably made the wrong decision. Whether striking a pose or sharing a story, Buchanan is ever the performer, which results in a highly entertaining, well-crafted cabaret show.