Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by William Peterson, Associate Professor, Flinders University

Review: Bigger and Blacker, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Sun 9 Jun

Nothing beats the Adelaide winter blues quite like a superb, well-crafted cabaret show in a warm, cosy, intimate space. And few theatre spaces are more suited to cabaret than the Famous Spiegelent, which returns for the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, now under the leadership of Artistic Director Julia Zemiro.

Among the opening weekend highlights was the world premiere of self-described “faboriginal” Steven Oliver’s autobiographical Bigger and Blacker, a series of poignant, and hard-hitting stories told through song, prose, and spoken word poetry. Many will know Oliver from his brilliant character sketches on the ABC series, Black Comedy.

Working with musical director and cabaret stalwart Michael Griffiths, Oliver, a gay Aboriginal man, presents stories of “being lost and found again”. The journey touches on his recent success, one that suddenly made him if not famous, at least “gaymous”.

It takes us through his setbacks in finding love, the pain of confronting racism in the online world and his struggle with depression to his offer to open up cultural space for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians to meaningfully engage with one another.

Oliver brilliantly and relentlessly plays with words from a position of his double-marginalisation as “a minority within a minority”. As we travel with him, we are guided through unlikely spaces, including the back room of a gay bar where, as he observes, Aboriginal men “won’t be hard to find because we’re the only blacks”.

In a smart, black suit and bow tie, Oliver commands the stage with his presence and his stories. His spoken word poetry alternates with his original songs: both possess a confessional, soulful quality.

Words pour out of his body and heart, sometimes erupting like a geyser, then a raging river, winding down into a narrow stream, a patter, punctuated by a pause. He is at times a conjurer, using language like a preacher, taking it into the realm of incantation. It is as if by saying it, he makes it so.

'Faboriginal' Steven Oliver jump-starts a conversation about race in a thrilling new show Oliver alternates between spoken word and poetry throughout the show. Claudio Raschella

Read more: Black Comedy: the ABC makes a bold foray into race relations

Throughout, his hands and body only briefly come to a full stop, and then only for dramatic effect.

Oliver is a beautiful mover, swaying and rocking, at one point launching into a jaunty tap routine while engaged with a bit of playful banter with the ever-dapper Griffiths, seated at the piano. But his hands are his most expressive physical tool. They accentuate and underline words, flittering, exploding and twirling at speeds that sometimes appear to be faster than light.

Oliver’s rhyming is clever, at times brilliant, as he lets the movement of the words guide him into storytelling, rapping, and then transitioning into song. Griffiths adeptly supports him, leading from spoken word to song with musical phrases that appear as if out of the air.

Griffiths also provides back-up vocals and harmonies for Oliver, while never overpowering him. It is a musical collaboration marked by generosity, restraint, and mutual respect.

'Faboriginal' Steven Oliver jump-starts a conversation about race in a thrilling new show Oliver’s hands are his most expressive tool. Claudio Raschella

At times, Oliver gives us more naughty than nice, causing jaws to drop a bit, as when, early in show, while speaking of the therapeutic value of dance, he says, “When you shake your ass, you shake off a lot of shit”. Taking a beat, he adds, “ohhhh, that came out wrong”, requiring another beat, ending with an audible audience groan.

Oliver shows himself to be a master at drawing the audience into the material, an essential feature of cabaret. Many of his musical numbers caused spectators to involuntarily tap their feet on the wooden floor of the Spiegeltent, physically connecting us to one another.

Though intensely personal, Oliver’s words and songs are consistently interwoven into the larger social fabric of being Indigenous in Australia. Speaking of trolling on Facebook on social media, he observes trenchantly, “The thing about racism is that it teaches you how to behave”. When he later recounts his struggle with depression, he connects it to a story about a boy bullied for being effeminate, calling for a world where such a boy would “not just dance to sadness, but just dance”.

Bringing the personal and the political together, Oliver ended the evening with another urgent spoken word piece. “I’m a blackfella”, he asserts, observing that learning to engage starts “by talking to me”.

With Bigger and Blacker, Oliver jump-starts such a conversation by bringing us along for a ride that is thrilling, exhilarating, and at times, equal parts naughty and challenging.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival is on until June 22.

Authors: William Peterson, Associate Professor, Flinders University

Read more http://theconversation.com/faboriginal-steven-oliver-jump-starts-a-conversation-about-race-in-a-thrilling-new-show-118582


The Conversation

Politics

Senator Colbeck named Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport

Liberal Senator for Tasmania Richard Colbeck has expressed his excitement in taking on responsibility for the portfolios of Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and S...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Senator Canavan: Statement on Queensland Government's decision on Adani

I welcome the Queensland Government's announcement regarding timelines for Adani's approvals, but I don't thank them. The thanks go to the people of Central Queensland who have forced this outcome t...

Senator Canavan - avatar Senator Canavan

Australians reject Labor’s marine park lock outs

Australians have rejected Labor’s plans to return to their disastrous marine park lock outs policy. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Richard Colbeck said the strong result fo...

Senator Colbeck - avatar Senator Colbeck

Business News

The right way of compliance training: LMS

Does your business fall in the category of a small business, medium business or a highly regulated enterprise? Regardless, compliance training is unarguably necessary for everyone. However, many ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How Car Trailers Benefit Small Farmers

Farming activity requires moving implements, fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, equipments, tools and a host of other things to and from the farm, nearly as a regular activity. Even when your farm is at c...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Ensure a Successful Letterbox Drop

With the clamour surrounding social media and digital marketing, you might be wondering why you should revert back to the older technique of a letterbox drop.When done right, a letterbox drop can be...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation

Going on a vacation is one of the favourite activities for most of us. Sunny beaches and blue sea as far as your eyes can see; all you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. How...

Brigitte Evans - avatar Brigitte Evans

Golden Year Guide - Preparing For Post-Retirement Travelling

Retirement is something that many of us spend most of our lives looking forward to, it is supposed to be what all that hard work and sacrifice is for. A lot of us have big plans for when we retire, ...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Glamping Winter Getaways Perfect for this Season

Glamping, also known as “glamorous camping”, is such a huge trend right now all across the globe. Of course, this is no exception for travellers in Australia. From adorable cottages to luxurious be...

Laura Grant - avatar Laura Grant

ShowPo