Rumour Has It
The Little Red Company
Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
January 13 – 14 2017
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
If you were around a few years ago, you might recall a random little cabaret space above a Swedish restaurant in Albion named Stockholm Syndrome. Sadly, the venue disappeared, but The Little Red Company’s Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele has continued to evolve since its short stint there, in front of sixty people per night during Queensland Cabaret Festival, leaping from stage to stage, and reaching a loyal band of followers as well as bringing brand new audiences to Cabaret, and to the world of sassy superstar singer-songwriter, Adele.
Created by Adam Brunes and Naomi Price on a patio one night over a bottle of gin, as all the best works are, the multi-award winning Rumour Has It was immediately a brilliant and poignant, hilarious and highly entertaining show. Each reincarnation has proved hugely satisfying and in its current form, the most impressive yet, Rumour Has It is more sophisticated and more memorable than ever. It’s ready to tour the world…but first, a national tour, beginning with the highly anticipated three-shows-only season at THE HOUSE OF POWER.
For the first time, by popular demand, Little Red offered an all-ages version of Rumour Has It. Based on the success of their recent sell-out season in Kuala Lumpur – no (swearing) and thank you please, Madam – giving the youth a chance to see for themselves what all the fuss is about, however; it wasn’t the show Poppy and I wanted to see. My ten-going-on-thirty-year-old had patiently waited for her father to give up his +1 status and accepted there’d be a fuckload of swearing on Friday night, which was “in the context of the show”.
In role as Adele, frocked up again in Leigh Buchanan’s sensational original designs (and delightedly, barefoot before the final number), Price shares delicious home truths about growing up in Tottenham, surviving/thriving after break-ups and gives us her cheeky, self-satisfied account of her meteoric rise to fame. The story segments, political references and razor sharp responses to audience input are fast, fresh and funny. Price is more adept in front of a live audience than most, the old patter landing as squarely as when we first heard it in 2012 and the new material testament to the bold wit of this writing duo, who have wisely updated the set list too, to include Adele’s latest hits. Hello is a stirring finish before the final encore, and the Adele Megamix 3000 created especially to give credit to the amazing musicians and vocalists with whom Price shares the stage.
For the first time, the Camerata, Brisbane’s chamber orchestra, are featured throughout, adding depth to a Spice Girls medley (who would’ve thought!?), and rich layers to Adele’s catalogue of songs. The original string arrangements by Andrew Johnson are most notable after Interval (Sound by Jamie Taylor), taking Skyfall into the stratosphere while silver confetti rains down onto the stage. At the other end of the spectrum, during the acoustic Daydreamer, we’re not so much surrounded by bubbles (visually spectacular in a previous season), as witness to a gentle reminder that this is a show so good it insists on returning to us time and time again despite the challenges faced by Australian artists generally, i.e. coming up with dollars for special effects and spaces…
The band, comprising Michael Manikus (keys), Jason McGregor (guitar), Scotty French (bass) and Mik Easterman (drums) is the slickest, and if you’ve supported the artists by taking home a CD of the show, recorded live at the Judith Wright Centre, you’ll also hear Brett Fowler on keys and Andrew Johnson on bass as well as Tom Oliver singing vocals (he’s currently touring in Velvet). On vocals this time, the incomparable Luke Kennedy returns to join sensational husband and wife team, Lai Utovou and Rachel Everett-Jones. Until you’ve seen this trio perform, you ain’t seen or heard backing vocals. They’re dynamic and disciplined, and they each shine, Price rightly giving them a moment in the spotlight before the night is over. (Previously, we’ve seen them in brighter light from the start and I’d love to see more of them again next time, rather than straining to see them against the black tabs. The same can be said of Manikus, disappearing at times into the shadows on the opposite side of the stage). I’ve always adored Jason Glenwright’s design featuring vintage lampshades and in THE HOUSE OF POWER the warm, glowing effect is not lost. Even in this spacious venue, we feel warmth and intimacy (and splintering pain during Someone Like You), and the genuine affection Price feels for her Brisbane audience, even those from Woodridge…
The sound is heavenly (largely due to Price bravely investing as much of her personal story in the songs as her reading of Adele’s; it’s there in the intimacy and connection she creates with her audience with a superb voice, stronger than ever, and a great big open heart). Not to be discounted or taken for granted, it’s incredibly rare to get the same level of energy and commitment at the same time from such a large number of performers on stage (it’s what’s often missing from so many sold-out smash-hit mega musicals and why we come away from them satisfied but without minds blown), but this company radiates joy; it’s impossible to leave the show feeling anything less than rapture. Really. (Let’s add to the Little Red Must Write List, a Blondie show).
Rumour Has It has come of age; it’s the best it’s ever been. With all the pieces in place, this Rumour Has It is ready for Royal Albert Hall. Naomi Price is as good as Adele – better, because she’s ours – and this production is surely the country’s most accomplished showcase of the sort of humble, sensational Australian talent that’s consistently wowing overseas presenters and punters. And all this from a little Queensland company that could.
This is not the end. Rumour Has It is coming to a venue near you