Robyn Archer: Que-Reste-t’il Queensland Premiere


The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

The J Theatre

Monday 17th June 2013


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



If you were lucky enough to be in the house for Robyn Archer’s Queensland Premiere of Que-Reste-t’il on Monday evening at The J Theatre, you won’t need me to point out that we were taken on a pretty special journey, back to the place where cabaret really began, Paris in the 1880s. A city of grit and disease, as we discovered after Archer’s first fun song choice, which came complete with audience participation (singing in French WITH actions!), and in complete contrast, “here comes cholera, here comes cholera, here comes cholera…” (Now sing it to the tune of Here Comes Santa Claus…oh dear!). Like Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, there was a lesson to be learned from the art. And audiences do like a good, rousing, beer-swilling chorus, don’t we? Such was the cabaret cum vaudeville of old.


The mood changed abruptly as we moved forward through time, taken via Archer’s in-depth social commentary – it remained interesting and surprisingly succinct throughout – into the various dark corners of Paris, into places riddled with disease and populated by questionable characters – the tart, the mole, the bastard, the whore. As a singer, we know Archer is a dynamic and intriguing character actor (but others simply love her gusto, I know). Her face is without a hint of makeup and she wears black. Oh, no, not the black dress of Piaf, or anything flowing or suitably (suitably? who says?) vintage looking, just a plain, black, collared, buttoned long shirt over straight black pants, as is her wont.


It’s as if Archer doesn’t want us to forget that it’s her – the storyteller – however, she embodies each character so completely (we even get a bit of Brigitte Bardot!) and there is little vocal subtlety, some will say appropriately so, until the latter half of the program, when the love songs come out to play. There is also the occasional knowing wink, as if she has a lot more to say on the subject at hand. Tit was the latter half of the program I enjoyed most, with more familiar melodies in it, and my own memories flickering around and about the theatre, like Poppy’s fairies (they’re with her all the time, you know. What? You can’t see them? BELIEVE!). I’m sure if you’ve been to Paris you would, as Meghan did, felt taken right back there during the show.



Amazing, delightful and exhilarating! When I closed my eyes I was back in a cafe in Paris reliving the satisfaction of exquisite and mesmerising memories! Meghan Halverson



I loved hearing La Mer (in French and English), Autumn Leaves and She in a no-nonsense medley, which my sister said she was grateful for (she means its brevity) because she had enjoyed the first half of the show, it suited her to hear the more aggressive and mad numbers. We agreed that the truth is ugly and Archer knows just how to share it! Nothing is offensive, but it might have been in its original context. As Liza commented, Jaques Brel’s Carousel had quite an impact on the audience.



Robyn Archer hasn’t lost her sensational ability to find the truth in the lyric, and, as ever, the timing was impeccable. The Jacques Brel song, Carousel, just about brought the house down. First saw her over 30 years ago, and she was a star then – a constellation now! Liza Park



A couple of absolutely beautiful moments – frozen-in-time moments – came when Archer sang about the rag and bones man, the rain, and the Red Room. Each number was superbly lit, and this also impressed Analiese. Having travelled the world almost three times over with Cirque du Soleil, she’s seen some good lighting. And she knows good lighting, you know? With colour serving as Archer’s only backdrop, the focus remained on her, and on her musicians, Michael Morley (piano) and George Butumlic (accordion).  At times it seemed as if they were completely transfixed by their music; caught up in their own little world up there on the stage. But when I looked around, they weren’t the only ones. People ADORE Robyn Archer. So much so, that there was stomping. That’s right. A STOMPING OVATION! I suspect this is partly due to the chilly weather – it was difficult to keep warm, after all – and also due to the fact that the average age of the audience must have been well over sixty fifty forty (oops. I know too many people; it won’t do to offend them simply for being there).


This audience was so warm of heart, and genuinely involved and appreciative, singing along sporadically, moving in their seats to the music. An accordion will do that, don’t you find? The very sound is so evocative of all things Parisian (to everyone’s delight, she sang Piaf’s Accordionist). Speaking of which, Archer returned for a very comical encore, singing a French vocabulary list to the tune of Non, Je ne regrette rien, which was just hilarious. So like the ridiculous car songs we sing when everybody gets sick of I Spy (we have a street sign song game too. Hours of legit road trip entertainment right there). It was a highlight for me, and a fantastic finish!


There’s no doubt that Archer is an acquired taste, and like anything that requires a little concentration and deeper consideration, the reward is great. How lucky we are to have had the incomparable Robyn Archer in our midst for the first week of the Noosa Long Weekend. You can hear from her, wearing another of her hats, as the director of so many arts festivals, on Wednesday at 3pm over a spot of afternoon tea. I can’t wait to hear more from the mind and heart of this incredible artist so I’ll see you there!



Today at The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Tuesday 18th June



8.30am-11am Annie Gaffney from ABC Coast FM broadcasting LIVE from The J. I’ll be chatting with Annies after 10am. Come say HI or tune in!

10am FREE Teasing the Domestic Exhibition at The J Theatre + FREE The Long Exhibition at Harbourside Gallery

10.30am Literature – ‘All Good Things, A Memoir’. Morning Tea with Sarah Turnbull. RACV Noosa Resort

12noon & 1.15pm Ducks Deluxe progressive lunch.3-courses with 3 glasses of wine. Gaston Bar Bistro, Bistro C & Sails Beach Cafe I’ll be chatting with Festival Director, Ian Mackellar along the way, and live-tweeting his comments about the Festival! SEE YOU THERE

1pm FREE Heritage Walk Mill Point with Archaeologist Steve Nichols. Meet at Parks & Wildlife Centre, Elanda Point

6pm Now Hear This. Richard Fidler & Melanie Tait. Noosa Arts Theatre SHHH…you might be surprised to see who takes to the stage

7.30pm QLD Premiere ‘Happiness’ by David Williamson. The J SEE YOU THERE

8.30pm. Supper Club – Naomi Price as Adele. 2-course supper & glass of wine. berardo’s restaurant & bar SEE YOU AFTER THE SHOW 😉











Rumour Has It. Naomi Price. Image by Dylan Evans.



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