By Lia Cocks
Behind the 1970s style tassel curtains of the gorgeously set up Space Theatre, lurked a very talented woman ready to pound the stage with her distinct and direct style.
Award-winning choreographer, dancer and Adelaide arts doyenne Larissa McGowan brings us her contemporary dance interpretation of pop culture, gender balance and ideals and power through the life of music icon, Cher.
Throwing open the curtains with her black curly hair, leather jacket and iconic Cher leotard, she frantically and hysterically lip synced through ‘Turn Back Time’ while performing classic jazz and contemporary moves.
She seamlessly progressed between vaudeville and almost tragedy with the overture of recordings of Cher being interviewed and demanding she wants to be in movies on the Sonny and Cher Show.
We are treated to a montage of scenes from classic Cher films such as ‘Mermaids’ and ‘The Mask’ finishing with her Oscar acceptance speech. All this complete with outstanding contemporary choreography to highlight Cher as an epic and indestructible icon.
With costume changes happening behind the curtain [sometimes with a musical interlude, other times a flawless change with invisible wardrobe supervisors slipping her into her next outfit], we are privy to a chameleon like performance, showcasing Cher’s decline from the spotlight, and her trying to stay relevant through the ever advancing ages.
One of my favourite sections was when lip synching, the song starts to glitch, signifying the start of Cher’s decline of popularity, McGowan’s choreography was also glitching, and static and incredible to watch. Coupled with the staggering lighting design and effects by Chris Petridis, this had a spectacular effect on the audience.
Trying to follow the spotlight around the stage and stay ‘in the limelight’, she is handed a torch microphone, to which she sings with, until she places it on the stage facing the audience, flashing as the smoke effect begins.
This signifies the next phase of Cher - ‘Do You Believe In Love’, complete with feathered headpiece and fishnets.
The techno remix of the song, with brilliant sound design by co-creator Steve Mayhew, juxtaposed with McGowan’s modern showgirl choreography was another highlight for me.
This was followed by movement piece where every action had a reaction, to the song ‘I Got You Babe’ - and where that movement led her. Where one action instigates another. Similar to Newton’s Cradle.
The next phase displays McGowan dancing manically and comedically, imploring the audience to applaud and love her; performing for us to win back our affection. However nothing she does pleases the audience. This choreographic sections really showcases McGowan incredible strength, flexibility and intimate knowledge of the human body and it’s capabilities.
On the floor, seemingly exhausted by being a performing monkey, she picks up her leather jacket, throws it off, and sits backwards on a chair, lip synching to ‘Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’.
Her next costume change is an absolute masterpiece- with just a lean back through the curtains, she is transformed into a curly wig and monstrous hairy jacket, miming with classic 80s moves into a blowing fan. Hilarious!
McGowans latest work, started similar to a mockumentary; frivolous, and light-hearted, and then moved into a more weighty, introspective space, pushing the boundaries of self-discovery, and diving into Cher’s life through fierce choreography.
The tech and lighting, along with the musical arrangements, and dramaturgy were outstanding. The storytelling was cleverly created and while the choreography was typical of the methodology we’ve come to love from McGowan, her presentation was not.
This show may not appeal to the cabaret purists, nor should it. What defines cabaret anyway? Quite literally, the word means ‘little room’ or ‘wooden structure’ and the dictionary defines it as ‘entertainment held in a nightclub or restaurant where the audience eat and drink at tables’
Well, we were in a little room, sitting at wooden structures being entertained while we drank. Cabaret.
‘After a nuclear holocaust, there will be cockroaches and Cher’