Review by Matthew Hocter
The intimacy of the Space Theatre, nestled in the heart of The Adelaide Festival Centre, was the perfect setting for 30 Something; Catherine Alcorn and Phil Scott’s latest offering for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
It’s New Year's Eve 1939. Alcorn, the resident chanteuse of the fictional Corona Club set in Sydney’s Kings Cross takes to the stage, joined by sidekick Scott on piano and a three piece band comprising of Thomas ‘Slims’ Waller on drums, Oscar Peterson on Double Bass and Robbie Chenoweth on the trumpet. As they herald in the new year, the two move in and out of one liners and music by such greats as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Fats Waller coupled with the reworking’s of modern day artists such as Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and Coolio. Weirdly, it all seemed too mesh perfectly.
Alcorn’s command of the stage is, albeit a few missteps on the night, strong and present. Her strengths lie in her humor and with an almost Midler-esque style of camp, she most definitely knows how to play to and with her audience. Her voice at full capacity is nothing short of a belter reminiscent of singers like Ethel Merman, and again, understands the nuance and intricacy of each song she reinterprets.
Comedy, when done correctly, is an art form that only few know how to master. Scott, with his long and lengthy credentials in the comedy arena (The Big Gig & Good News Week) sadly fell short in 30 Something. Much of his humor came across as somewhat corny and even naff at times, never more evident in two “jokes” that were not only off color, but one usage of a racial slur that was just gross. Yes, he can tickle the ivories ever so beautifully and his version of the Yip Harburg/Joy Gorney classic, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” was heart wrenching, but his one liners felt tired at times, something I wasn’t expecting from someone of his calibre.
30 Something set out to recreate a bygone era and for the most part, it did just that. Complete with classic sponsorship jingles performed by both artists, audience participation with classic singalongs and the era of the six o’clock swill (where liquor establishments were forced to close at 6pm in Australia from 1910 to the 1960s) both artists leant into their characters and the era they were attempting to convey.
Whilst Alcorn and Scott highlighted the darkness of the imploding world around them, WWII had begun just a few months before this show was set, the regret and uncertainty in their choice of music and certain jokes was fitting for what it was setting out to do. It was a topical and tumultuous time and not one that was probably ever met with joy or jest until its demise in 1945. The reworking’s and mashup’s of the aforementioned music were great and Alcorn’s acerbic wit and campiness, along with her voice, were probably what many came out to see. The one-liners could do with a freshen up and given that we are in 2022, racial epithets have no place in so called comedy — then or now.