Adelaide Cabaret Festival


Thirteen successful years since its founding, Adelaide Cabaret Festival brings a selected roadshow to Hong Kong for the first time. Jenny Wong speaks to producer Torben Brookman about what’s in store for the city

Late hours, under the risqué lights of a spectacular night club clad in shimmering gold and rich maroon velvets: that’s the Moulin Rouge-esque scene that usually comes to mind at the mention of cabaret. But for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the term encompasses much more than these clichéd conceptions. Approaching cabaret with a broad articulation, the acclaimed festival – the largest of its kind in the world – features an electrifying array of performances, from the traditional to the contemporary, opera to rock, the wild to the avant-garde and the sweet to the quirky, all elements that combine when the popular Australian festival comes to Hong Kong this month.

What differentiates cabaret from plays or musicals lies in one key element. “It’s presented directly to the audience, as opposed to a performance, where the audience is just watching,” says producer Torben Brookman. “The cabaret artist interacts with the audience, so every performance is different. Everyone that comes along gets their own show and they all get to be part of that show.” With no rigid repertoires or rubrics, the unpredictable and intimate nature of cabaret creates a unique audience experience.

In recent years, Brookman has witnessed a cabaret renaissance. “More and more major cities in Australia have started doing their own cabaret festivals. London has announced one as well,” he states. Perceiving Hong Kong as an exciting scene for potential development of theatre, Brookman anticipates a positive response to the festival. “Hopefully we can develop this further in the future, for it to become something we do on a slightly larger scale every year.”

On the lineup at the Fringe is a cross section of popular performances that featured in the festival in Adelaide. For those with a more modern preference, Michael Griffiths performs a tribute to Annie Lennox with no vocal aid, costume or wig. “It’s quite remarkable to watch,” remarks Brookman. “He doesn’t imitate Lennox or anything like that; he literally just presents her story, inspirations and songs on the piano. It’s really engaging. It’s a take no one’s heard before.” Catherine Alcorn delivers the little known tale of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie in a first-person deconstruction of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll performer and composer. The spellbinding soprano, Ali McGregor, synthesises popular hits with exotic jazz and Latin hints, lapsing between opera, cabaret and pop culture. At a more classic angle, Paul Capsis, adorning a gold Sir Tom Baker suit, shares his connection with great female performers who have inspired him. Lastly, siblings Emma (who sings in English and French) and Thomas Hamilton explore the wavering emotions of love and life through jazz-pop infused originals. There’s a small, but apt taste of cabaret for everyone. Notes Brookman: “That’s the great thing about cabaret; you can just come along, listen to great songs and enjoy it all.”

Besides a taste of cabaret, the festival ambiance is buttressed with South Australian bites and sips, on top of the Our Mob art exhibition of aboriginal works down in the Fringe Gallery. The roadshow is set to take its audiences on a journey of comedy, charm and wonder – a trip which may leave us in a musical flux. After all, life is a cabaret.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival Roadshow The Fringe Club, Oct 16-21. Tickets: $320- $280;


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