By Sasha Meaney
Full show title: “THIS WOMAN’S WORK: AN INCOMPLETE ANTHOLOGY OF THE GREAT FEMALE SONGWRITERS”
As I enter the Venue 505 I realise a grave mistake has been made. The most important practical takeaway is to get to this venue early. The bar is packed to see the returning Australian born, New York based Miriam Waks. It’s truly a testament to her charm and talent that people are willing to sit on buckets, the stairwell and even stand for her two-and-a-half-hour set. A fact that is not lost on her. She is extraordinarily gracious and it only takes a few songs to understand how she pulled such an adoring crowd.
Prior to her set, the Venue 505 announces that it’s a record breaking event – it’s the most food that has been ordered by a crowd in the ten years since they opened. Throughout the night the staff worked harder than you could believe, all while still being extraordinarily charming. It was amazing and I could not applaud them enough for managing to accommodate so many loyal fans.
Waks is debuting her show “This Woman’s Work: An Incomplete Anthology of the Great Female Songwriters” that she will take back over to the States this week. The show acknowledges the great female singer, song writers whose works have inspired her. They range from the more well-known tunes of Dolly Parton, Amy Winehouse, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone to beautiful introductions of less mainstream material by Anaïs Mitchell and Roberta Flack. Waks’ intelligence shines through her choices and segues where she explains the material with history and personal anecdotes.
Waks’ voice is spectacularly versatile. There’s never a note out of place and her technique is flawless. Notably her higher notes and runs are so piercingly clear, she floors you when accompanied with a simple solo piano. Waks explains she took great care in choosing her band which consists of Holly Conner on drums, Tina Harris on the bass guitar and Kristen Fletcher on the keys. These women were extraordinary to watch, each acing solo moments throughout the show. Their communication was so clear and refreshingly honest, sometimes going back with Waks to get it just right.
Waks approaches the stage with vulnerability and quiet confidence. She warms into her set moving from ballads to her most comedic “In These Shoes?” by Kristy MacColl, having a Sex and the City moment in high sparkly shoes that would make even Dorothy green with jealousy. Working up to her own material, it’s a privilege to see her inspirations and be able to identify it within her own sound which pays homage but is also unique.
A personal highlight was her original “This Room” inspired by Virgina Woolf’s 1929 essay “A Room of One’s Own”. It sounds of an immediate classic, a song all us ladies would switch on in need of a frustrated cry after a long day. “Pay me the dream, then just leave me alone” would leave any weary soul completely seen. Kate Bush would be proud I’m sure.
I really hope Waks will be able to come back to Sydney soon for another show, and to see more of her own work. Waks shows talent and ambition without any of the arrogance. More than just a stunning performer she is an artist to watch whose curation is so thoughtful, I ran home and saved the whole set list to my Spotify account. It just goes to show that despite the potential of having all this information at my fingertips, there is so much value in showcases like Waks’ that go above and beyond the standards to uncover wonderful women’s work.
For more information of Miriam Waks’ work, her website can be found here!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.