Cabaret in Sydney has always been somewhat of an errant child, never really settling down but always finding a market that has seen at least one permanent venue able to survive, at least for a little while. In 2003, when the City of Sydney cut the Sydney Cabaret Convention, the genre suffered a massive blow. No longer was there an annual showcase of the industry to help revitalise audience interest, and many feared the “death of cabaret” was now very possible, not just a an over-used expression.
Thankfully, the arrival of a venue in the Sydney CBD in early 2005 helped keep the industry afloat and while its life may have been short, the Statement Cabaret Lounge makes up a crucial chapter in the city’s cabaret history.
The venue was the brainchild of performer Tyran Parke, theatrical publicist Amanda Buckworth and businessman Alistair Thomson. The trio managed the venue until its quiet closure in 2007, producing many shows and introducing a plethora of young talent to Sydney audiences.
In its first year Statement presented performers such as Kaye Tuckerman, Lisa Schouw, Queenie van de Zandt, Phil Scott, Avigail Herman, Melissa Langton, Trevor Ashley, Darren Mapes and Lisa Adams. These shows were received with critical acclaim and went on to other venues such as the Sydney Opera House, Ensemble Theatre, Parramatta Riverside and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
While the venue wasn’t perfect (its odd shape often proved an issue, as did its sound problems, though the latter was largely corrected in its final year), it created a brilliant atmosphere for cabaret – an underground venue beneath the State Theatre, with a quiet but somewhat funky bar that provided a solid industry “hang out” without the clutter of restaurants or the noise of busy CBD streets.
Statement went on to produce and present a host of critically acclaimed shows.
Belinda Wollaston, who performed her show Everything In Showbusiness Is 20 Minutes Too Long at the venue in 2006, noted the importance of Statement: “It was a tremendous venue; a venue with management that was easy to deal with and where all the elements came together to create a friendly, positive atmosphere.”
Its promotion of young performers was something that gave Statement added credibility. Inexperienced they may have been at times, but Statement always seemed to be on a winner, finding artists that had something special.
In 2006 and 2007, the venue presented shows by the graduating class of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, something that proved extremely popular and allowed young performers the opportunity to show Sydney what had been hiding in Perth for some three years.
The performance by the 2007 WAAPA graduates, 18 Bites Of The Big Apple, turned out to be the last at Statement.
Management made no grand announcement about its closure, but on January 14, 2008, AussieTheatre.com reported the following: “Sydney’s cabaret scene has been dealt a massive blow with the closure of the popular Statement Cabaret Lounge in the CBD. AussieTheatre.com can reveal that 18 Bites Of The Big Apple, a show presented late last year by graduates of WAAPA, was the last production to be hosted at the venue, which is located underneath the iconic State Theatre. Over a number of years Statement became Sydney’s most popular cabaret venue, hosting shows from artists like Hayden Tee, Katrina Retallick, Queenie Van De Zandt, Natalie Gamsu, Belinda Wollaston, Margi De Ferranti, Phil Scott, Genevieve Lemon and many others. 2007 was the venue’s most successful year, presenting shows from veterans like Chelsea Plumley and Amanda Harrison as well as a raft of rising stars. Tyran Parke, who ran the venue with Alistair Thomson and Sydney theatre publicist Amanda Buckworth, confirmed that the ride was over for the Sydney venue, but said it was not a financially based decision.”
Parke went on to say: “The three of us felt that with all we have on our plates we couldn’t put the energy into it that we wanted to. We all feel incredibly sad about it. We actually sat down and had lunch and tried to find a solution but it just wasn’t possible.”
The Statement Cabaret Lounge provided Sydney with a permanent, often unheralded cabaret venue for three solid years. The venue’s cabaret fitout was gutted soon after its closure.
While the cabaret venue was closed, Statement still operates as a bar and function room, and hosts other forms of entertainment. It remains located under the State Theatre in the Sydney CBD.
In 2009, one-off shows started being presented at Statement again.