Review: Picaresque at the Adelaide Festival Centre

By Carly Fisher


In the Banquet Room of the Adelaide Festival Centre, Robyn Archer’s collection of maquettes from all around the world are collated in a beautiful exhibit for audiences to enjoy throughout the festival. These cardboard buildings represent the best of the human architectural achievements globally, with replicas of buildings and monuments from Paris, Berlin, Moscow, New York, London, San Francisco and Budapest to name a few, all featured.


Such is the setting for Robyn Archer’s latest performance, Picaresque. Around this exhibition of buildings, Robyn sings songs that have inspired her career, or been the places of career defining moments, in a one woman performance. Backed by the very talented Accordionist, George Butrumlis, who also performed a song in Greek which was a highlight for this reviewer, Archer sings songs in English, German and French to tell her history, alongside some world history too.


It is no question that the main appeal here for the Adeladians in the crowd, is Archer herself. A true darling of the Adelaide Theatre Scene, the room was full of those you can tell have followed her career for many years and will continue to do so as she continues to perform. A more mature audience, many sung along to the songs or nodded their heads as they remembered some of the historical moments Archer references.


Saving these models to be put altogether in such a way was an inspired concept as it made for a truly stunning set designed by Wendy Todd and Geoff Cobham. The room, adorned with fairy lights throughout the buildings, truly looked sensational and captivated me for most of this performance.


I must be honest, this performance didn’t really do it for me beyond the beautiful exhibition and little interjection of Greek singing from George. Whilst some of Archer’s songs were thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, I didn’t feel I was transported to these places by way of song. With a very heavy load of German songs in the one hour performance, there wasn’t huge variety in the music and at times, the storytelling unfortunately came across as self-indulgent. I must acknowledge that I am probably not the target audience for this production, but that said, as someone with great fascination in the world and in history, I felt I should have been further engaged by this performance than I was.


This show is for Robyn Archer fans, for people who have grown up with her and for whom seeing her perform in this beautiful and intimate setting is already exciting. For these fans, who do pretty much fill the audience, this is a wonderful evening of songs, memories and stories and Archer is generous in sharing many memories with these die-hard fans.


I loved the exhibition and design, I liked some of the songs, but ultimately, this performance was no highlight of the Adelaide Festival for me.

Photo Credit: Tony Lewis


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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