30
May
17

Lady Beatle

 

Lady Beatle

La Boite Theatre Company & The Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

We used to sing a song to Poppy when she was little.

Ladybug, ladybug, landed on my stinky toe….. It was so funny; we would giggle and sing bits of it intermittently for days at a time. It still makes me smile (and if we’re honest, we still sing it from time to time).

Did you even know that lady beetles don’t see colour? They see only grey. Perhaps I knew this once, or I should have known it, since my dad is an entomologist and no doubt has told me this and many other fascinating insect facts, but I think I’d forgotten. I’ve never forgotten rowdy closing night parties and random days and nights throughout my childhood, singing The Beatles’ songs at the tops of our voices. There are things that contribute far more than other things to the grown ups we become, and if The Beatles were part of your childhood or adolescent soundtrack too, you probably turned out alright. Poppy, now eleven, agrees that The Beatles are timeless, for every generation, “even if not ALL of my friends have a favourite Beatles’ song.” Poppy’s favourite Beatles’ song is, appropriately, Here Comes The Sun. If you know Poppy, you know how perfect that is.

I’ve been thinking about Lady Beetle Syndrome a lot. A major aspect of our Master of Professional Practice Performing Arts is psychology and self care, and the way in which we, as artists, look after ourselves and support each other. And just as the lady beetles don’t see their own bold beauty, despite our strengths and reflective practice, we often fail to recognise in ourselves the things that appear obvious to everyone else.

 

This sensational show, the third and final in The Little Red Company’s trilogy of pop culture cabaret productions starring Naomi Price (following the hugely successful Wrecking Ball & Rumour Has It), depended largely upon La Boite’s recognition of the company’s previous success and their faith in the creation of new product, even before the creators knew what it would look like. With only the title to start the process, La Boite held space, gifting the luxury of time to the artists, who were able to immerse themselves in a truly collaborative development period in between the demands of touring, managing to keep Rumour Has It on the road while writing and rehearsing Lady Beatle. I don’t think any of our artists strive to be owned by a venue, but La Boite’s Todd MacDonald, like QPAC’s John Kotzas, and our other industry leaders (at Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and Metro Arts), has certainly provided the vital support that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable to be an artist, or a company of artists, creating new work in Australia. Sam Strong was right to insist we begin to recognise that we are, indeed, leading from Queensland in so many ways.

Premiering on the 50th Anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this production is the ultimate deep and meaningful feel-good show, with a guaranteed touring life ahead of it. It goes to Adelaide and Noosa next, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t see it back in town in September for Brisbane Festival. Imagine, in the Spiegeltent! But like Rumour Has It, when it moved to more spacious venues, this show is bound to take on a different vibe, and I do love the intimacy of this first version, using cabaret seating in The Roundhouse, and allowing us to feel as if the stories are special secrets shared between Lady Beatle and her closest friends, i.e. anyone who loves The Beatles as much as she does.

Co-creators, Naomi Price and Adam Brunes, just about perfected contemporary cabaret with the many incarnations of Rumour Has It, but this time they’ve made the experience more personal. Rather than taking on multiple roles or an iconic role, Price is a complex, compelling, mysterious woman from Liverpool who loves The Beatles. She loves them more than anything else in the world. She was there at the Cavern in 1962 for their first ever performance, and recalls watching them running, with nothing to lose, towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and into a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans. No fear. Just running towards it all. In the music and personalities of the lads she finds her escape and inspiration, and a way back to a world in which she thought she’d never belong.

With The Beatles in it, the woman’s grey world becomes kaleidoscopic and full of promise.

A rousing, crowd pleasing Yellow Submarine sounds just the way we thought it might (and yes, we sing along), but new musical arrangements allow for a raw, sweet, pure Penny Lane and a dark, sombre, somehow sadder than ever Eleanor Rigby. Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, The Camerata, play Andrew Johnson’s original string arrangement (recorded, mixed and mastered by Geoff McGahan). In true sharing culture style, The Little Red Company has made this stunning track available to download for FREE. The Lonely Hearts Club Band comprises four lads who are easily among our country’s best musicians; we’ve seen the proof of it in previous productions. They are Jason McGregor, Andrew Johnson, Michael Manikus and Mik Easterman. They scrub up well, in suits by Leigh Buchanan. Price wears knee highs and a mod woollen coat dress to start and a sparkling classic red pants suit to finish; very Elle Macpherson/Goldie Hawn/Celine Dion, and both outfits are just right with her black bobbed hair. Jamie Taylor’s sound design and engineering is first class, and Jason Glenwright’s tubular lighting is both practical and magical, retaining the focus on the singer and the songs.

Although I actually want to see Price singing it, it’s fitting that a rendition of Blackbird comes literally out of the dark. Let It Be wraps a proper rock medley, and it’s an ear worm of inspiration and comfort, a reminder of the present moment, to continue to “hurry slowly” through life from the place of stillness and self-love that’s easy enough to find in our quieter moments, but so difficult to carry with us as we go into our busy days and nights.

Lady Beatle is mostly upbeat, but it has some beautifully charged and reflective moments, and while it’s a tribute, with its focus firmly on the life affirming, world changing music of The Beatles, we’re invited to go deeper to consider everything that’s precious in our lives right now. Price is in fine voice; she can twist and shout and whisper and croon and rock! The ultimate entertainer, she opens (and closes) the show with a bang, settling into a friendly, intimate tone from the outset, simply inviting us to join her on a trip down memory lane, into a world of tangerine trees, marmalade skies, and strawberry fields forever. It’s a brilliant concept, a massively appealing and entertaining show, superbly delivered. We’re left with a sneaking suspicion that there’s more to come.

When the band plays and the voice soars, and the entire sold-out opening night crowd sings along, you know you’re at one of the best new shows of the decade. You know you’ll get to see it again.

 

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