Seeing some truly awful autobiographical cabaret has shown me that a compelling performance requires more than just telling strangers about your life.
Of course a performer needs to entertain, but great cabaret performers get beyond the merely personal, leading their audience to mull over bigger issues. In Waitressing … And Other Things I Do Well, Gillian Cosgriff serves the audience original songs of her uncertain time after graduating from Performing Arts at uni with a strong voice, musical flair, some appealing humour, and even the odd emotional twinge.
Just from the title we can see that Cosgriff doesn’t take herself too seriously. This lack of vanity is a great attribute for her show, allowing her to avoid mawkishness and dredge through her loathed and unglamorous past employment for musical comedy fodder in ‘The Job Song’. It’s a clever choice which endears Cosgriff to the audience and which will resonate with anyone who’s endured menial jobs to support their other interests.
One story of an unrewarding job concerned Cosgriff’s time instructing children in music. This caused her to develop her own piano teaching method, which audience members were called upon to experience. This scene was quite similar to one I’ve seen in Barry Morgan’s World Of Organs where it fitted in better as he was trying to sell his audience an electric organ. As for everything else in the show Cosgriff handled the aside well, but it interrupted the flow of the performance. On balance I think Cosgriff doesn’t need this side-dish, she’s got plenty of other appealing tastes on the menu.
Songs were delivered in different styles with material that ranged from comedic tales of past boyfriends (“He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was the shiniest” is a great quip) to setbacks in finding work on the stage. On Line, a song about being away from your friends, had an irresistible punch showing that Gosgriff understands that in cabaret the heart is inseparable from the art.
Near the end, Cosgriff remarks that after this tour she would go back to being a waitress left me incredulous. She shouldn’t get too comfortable in her apron. Although she’s not long graduated, she already has skills of a cabaret professional, including “leaving the audience wanting more”. Only 25, what delicacies will she dish up when all the big stuff happens? I’d like a seat at that table.