Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

14th February – 2nd March 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


I really had no idea what to expect tonight. I always look forward to Vicious Salon’s work. The church is transformed every time I go there. And that’s a big theme of this performance; Transformation and change. That and songbirds, but it’s all relative.


CloudCUCKOOlLand has all the usual suspects. Directed by heartBeast’s vital organs, Michelle Carey and Michael Beh, it is a retelling of Aristophane’s ancient Greek comedy, The Birds. The karaoke bar run by Stevie decides to throw a cash prize event. Regulars and out of towners flock to the bar to try their talents but the Gods have their own agenda. The bright, glittering room becomes a new space for angels’ messages and fun karaoke hits. From the forties to the noughties we get to watch the foray of Gods, humans and angels.


To me it was strange. There’s no other word for it. The stage looked fantastic as always. Michael Beh’s eye for design comes through faithfully in this production. But the atmosphere was jilted. The clash of country folk, the bizarre inhabitants of the club and then the Gods and Goddesses too was an interesting combination. Still I’d prefer this weird and wonderful bar to the real Cloudland. The drinks are certainly cheaper.


What was unacceptable was the sound team off stage. Though not in view of the audience they are still an important component to the show. Heard and not seen. At one moment the wrong song played. It was a brief mishap but nonetheless notable. Throughout the show there were microphones turning on too late, or turning off too early. In one scene the girls doing backing vocals under Zeus’s wonderful booming voice aren’t heard at all. Perhaps in the preview night these mistakes could’ve been overlooked but on opening night these errors shouldn’t even be plausible. It was a disappointment and I hope the same mistakes don’t come up in future performances. It really detracts from such an intriguing show.


I was also a little miffed by the ending. You’ll get a wonderful surprise that makes you a part of the show. Right after you hear some wonderful songs. But then it felt as if the rug was pulled from under me when Dawn, the angel, shares an important but sappy message. I loved the magic realism and the “voting” that you’ll find out about. heartBeast have done interactive things before. I remember having to place bets for Beauty Is Difficult, which was another great performance. But this time around that inclusive nature is cut short.



But where CloudCUCKOOLand had its faults it comes back ten times stronger with its successes.  The cast is brilliant, some truly are songbirds. Warwick Comber as Zeus was definitely the right casting choice. His booming voice has a regal air to it. After Comber sang Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual I found myself humming it all the way home. I recognised Emily Pollard and Jacob Paint from heartBeast’s previous show Mother Country too. Both prove their skills time and time again. Pollard’s singing especially is something special to hear. Anna O’Hara has a Dr. Frank-n-furter from Rocky Horror quality that she gives her character Lady Nightingale. Then Hamish Nicholson, as the impish bisexual Andy reminded me of another Andy. Andrew Garfield in Heath Ledger’s last film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The theatrical mischievous nature was the spitting image of Garfield and I wonder if the name is a coincidence or not?


I have seen many shows with the heartBeast crew now. I’ve sort of grown to think of some of the actors as friends I never speak to. But I love watching them transform into a new role every time with what seems like ease. I know there is so much organic creation behind their costumes.


CloudCUCKOOLand is a show you have to step into with an open mind. That’s my advice. My second tip is to sit back and have a great night. There are many moments for laughter, and hits to sing. You are encouraged to sing along, it is a karaoke bar after all. Come to Trinity Hall and see its latest transformation before the season finishes.




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