Erik Satie, French avant-garde composer and pianist, was one of the founding fathers of cabaret. While his compositional style evolved with time, his early involvement at Le Chat Noir in Montmartre helped to create and shape the beautiful art form that is celebrated at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Musicians Cheryl Pickering and Richard Chew have combined with actor Graeme Rose to vividly recreate aspects of Erik Satie’s intriguing life story. The Velvet Gentlemen is not exactly a biographical work, some aspects are true, others are embellished for the sake of theatre – Satie would understand.
Richard Chew’s piano was understated and technically sound. At times Chew was the centre of attention, Satie personified, but at other times providing subtle musical backing which heightened the vocals of Cheryl Pickering or the action of Graeme Rose. The final number, the one everyone was waiting for, was ‘Gymnopédie No 3.’ and the beauty in simplicity was met with rapturous applause.
The sold out Artspace audience was enchanted by Graeme Rose’s French cabaret host. Even though the accent occasionally lapsed, his energy and actions – particularly (literally) swimming through a sea of people – were always enjoyed. Furthering the idea of a ‘sea of people’ was the clever and visually effective paper boat race. Well done, devisor.
Cheryl Pickering’s soprano could both haunt and comfort, and her French pronunciation was excellent. At times however her vocal tone seemed thin and unsupported – most likely attributable to microphone technique.
In a festival that is pushing the definition of cabaret to its limits, The Velvet Gentlemen is perhaps the closest act to traditional cabaret. I strongly suggest seeing this show, but alas, it is completely sold out. So that sucks for you doesn’t it? (return season?)