Now in his late 60s, Jack Charles has more than a few stories to tell. In his one-man show, Jack Charles Vs The Crown, the diminutive and enigmatic aboriginal elder discusses his life journey – from theatre to theft, addiction to activism, and film sets to Her Majesty’s prison system.
At the Adelaide Cabaret Festival audiences did not see the full Jack Charles Vs The Crown, but instead a stripped back, barebones, one hour, cabaret version of the celebrated production. The production seemed like an entrée to a main, a Jack Charles tasting platter and frankly, left most hungry for something more substantial.
The cabaret version began with a near fifteen-minute soundscape led by band director Nigel Maclean and accompanied by a voiceover outlining an exhaustive list of criminal misdemeanors.
Finally Jack Charles enters. The waddle-walk, amazing hair, and theatrical finesse is what the audience had been waiting for. The ensuing thirty minutes, where Mr Charles tells tales of foster parents, juvenile detention, petty crime, drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse, was the most engaging. What a tumultuous life. A neighbouring audience member struggled to reconcile “glorifying and celebrating a thief”, but the vast majority were clearly emotional and in awe of the constant trials and tribulations of Jack’s life.
Skillfully balancing comedy and pathos, Jack Charles seemed mostly at ease on stage. The heavy-handed reliance on a prompt sheet (perhaps because the cabaret version content, speed and flow varies significantly from the original) occasionally disrupted the flow of dialogue.
In an attempt to bring some cabaret to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the final twenty minutes of the show was dedicated to Jack Charles’ days as a busker. With his acoustic guitar and backed by a country flavoured band, Mr Charles clearly enjoyed reliving some sentimental favourites.
With a life and a show that is bound to initiate discussion, Jack Charles Vs The Crown has the undeniable potential to be exceptional. Unfortunately the Adelaide Cabaret Festival version felt rushed and occasionally unsteady – but platform has now been set. Our interest has been peaked. Keep an eye out for the full version of Jack Charles Vs The Crown. This will surely be a show not to miss.