Review By Matthew Hocter
Paul McDermott has been in my life for as long as I can remember. Whether it be his role as one of the members of the musical comedy trio “The Doug Anthony All Stars” or his stint as host of the phenomenally popular “Good News Week,” McDermott and his comedic genius seem to have always been there. His career has included nearly every medium including being an artist, but it is his singing and comedic live shows that have probably garnered him critical and commercial acclaim, and for very good reason.
Bringing his talents to the Adelaide Fringe is nothing new for McDermott, he first visited the festival with DAAS back in 1986 and has been visiting on and off ever since. Switching things up for this year’s Fringe and bringing one of Australia’s most accomplished stage performers along for the ride, may just be one of the highlights of this entire festival. Catherine Alcorn, who many may know from a string of stage performances, none more so than her divine interpretation of Bette Midler in her show the “Divine Miss Bette,” couldn’t have been a better choice to playfully contest McDermott’s sometimes acerbic comedy.
Opening the show with a ukulele and a voice that has no use for a microphone, Alcorn’s version of Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” not only set the tone for the show, but welcomed McDermott to the stage in a way that even the most seasoned of professionals would have been in awe of.
The chemistry between the two was instantaneous, almost if the two were having a tête-à-tête and we were the unseen audience watching them at play. Isolation and Lockdown were the themes of the night and McDermott’s wit and beautiful singing voice were on full display with songs about the spread of germs (Touchscreen) and a hilarious song about self-isolation that left barely an eye dry. The banter between McDermott and Alcorn was fluid and natural and whilst the conversation went into areas that was not for the faint of heart (GGILF – you can work that one out), I found myself not only on the floor in fits of laughter, but enamoured by McDermott’s mastery of going off script and playing to and with the audience.
Not content with just singing and re-interpreting songs like Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight,” Alcorn put her velvety vocals to good use as she fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming one of John Farnham’s backing vocalists. Without going into great detail, as this was one of the highlights of the show and something that truly needs to be witnessed live, Alcorn hammed it up with her over exaggerated facial and arm movements that left me with so much pain in my side from laughter that I needed to stand up and not just for the much deserved ovation, but because I was in stitches. Pure GOLD.
Walking into this show was a bit of the unknown for me. Having seen Alcorn’s recent work and loving it and also growing up with McDermott on my TV screen, this unlikely matching seems just that, unlikely. But the pairing works. With McDermott providing one liners like “I am so woke, I’m an insomniac” and Alcorn’s camp cabaretesque humour and powerhouse of a voice, the two combined their talents in a way that has not been seen in a very long time. “Song for the Karen’s,” no explanation needed, highlighted this combination of artistry perfectly as the duo were joined by musical director and guitarist Glen Moorehouse.
Paul McDermott is clearly a master of his craft when it comes to weaving his words into something very few can do, especially where observational humour is concerned. Both he and Alcorn were unashamedly at ease with the applause that was showered on both performers regularly throughout the night, and rightly so. As Alcorn allowed her vocals to soar to the very core of the Queens Theatre, it was clear that if anyone in that room didn’t know who she was pre show, they most definitely knew who she was post. Paul and Catherine did sing together and with great aplomb, but they also delivered a show that really can’t be quantified by any amount of stars, nor are there enough words to accurately describe just how truly brilliant this show was.
See it for yourself.