Yours Sincerely Banana Brain (NiKNaK Productions)
The Old Museum
“Yours Sincerely Banana Brain” is a musical comedy cabaret featuring original music by Lizzie Flynn, performed by The Copabananas (Peter Stewart on Piano, Rory Dollard on guitar, Reuben Johnson on bass and Andre Bonetti on percussion) alongside its characters on-stage at The Old Museum as part of the 2020 Queensland Cabaret Festival.
Her name’s not Lola, but rather Zara (Lizzie Flynn), who is penning a ‘Hey You’ message to a FB friend suggestion of her lifetime ago bestie. And so the audience is taken back to when the younger Zara (Ella Macronkanis) and Violet (Emma Whitefield) meet in circa mid to late 90s at uni on a day it rained and rained (#soundsfamiliar). The two share musical dreams, so after an open mic night performance, they are soon on a road trip to perform together in regional New South Wales, talking along the way about all the paces they want to see.
When songwriter Zara sets out to realise her travel ambitions overseas, the friends’ navigation of growing together and then growing apart as they start to grow older unfolds through sharing of letters. It’s a trope we know can work well (think “Love Letters”), but without much backstory to their friendship beyond its origin by them happening to be in the same place at the same time, it is difficult to become invested in the character journeys on an emotional level with such short exchanges after such little time together. Indeed, from a story perspective, the show seems somewhat rushed, meaning that we are given little in way of resolution or filler as to what has happened between then and now.
Dramatically, “Yours Sincerely Banana Brain” is a work of much potential to grow and develop into a more substantial cabaret show that fosters full audience connection. Musically, meanwhile, it is excellent. Although the songs don’t really move the action along, they do capture Zara’s emotional journey in relinquishing her lifeboat to grown-up life. ‘Happy’ is a The Go Betweens type of breezy highlight with catchy arrangement and melodic vocal realisation. Even if its rap lyric inclusions are not always clear, its sentiment still comes across and it is a wonderful to hear it in reprise in the show’s closing scene. Clearly, Macronkanis, in particular is an incredibly talented vocalist.
In complement of the idiosyncratic letter sign off that appears as the show’s title, there are some appealing quirks to the show’s nooks and crannies, like bunch of bananas atop the piano. There is also a careful attention to detail, in, for example, its costuming, which includes nod to the shared characterisation of the now and then Zara. Most notable, however, is the collection of original songs and stories that weave through the duo’s friendship. Not only does it make for an appealing cabaret premise, but it assists in its clever realisation through the framing device of its on-stage performances.