Adelaide Cabaret Festival wins Ruby Award, now has its sights set overseas

 The Adelaide Cabaret Festival has become a steadfast figure in the Festival State’s arts landscape. As the Queen’s Birthday weekend rolls by each year, the Adelaide Festival Centre comes alive. It’s undeniable that this hedonistic fortnight has become the only way to thwart the winter chills.

Kate Ceberano, artistic director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Kate Ceberano, artistic director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for one more year

Almost fourteen years have passed since its inception, and now the festival has grown to be the largest of its type in the world. In fact, it was recognised last week by a Ruby Award for its sustained contribution to the arts and cultural life of South Australia.

Alongside the main event (which featured performances from three hundred and fifty artists), this year’s festival took to the road, travelling to regional Port Pirie. The initiative was so well received that the Cabaret Festival Roadshow now has its sights set overseas.

During October, a selection of leading Australian performers will take to the stage at the Hong Kong Fringe Club. For Producer Torben Brookman, the venture is all part of the festival’s evolution.

“We started looking at where the Cabaret Festival was at and we felt quite strongly that it had established its place in Australia as the leading festival of its genre. The natural progression would be finding some international markets and finding some international exposure and really showcasing what we do down here,” said Brookman.

As director of Asia Theatricals and GWB Entertainment, Brookman has a great deal of experience touring large productions on an international level. This, along with the Adelaide Festival Centre’s existing professional and artistic affiliation, makes Asia the perfect destination.

While they might have been more obvious choices, Brookman explains that taking the festival to America or Europe would have been like taking “ice to an Eskimo”. Instead, the festival hopes to tap into the sophisticated, arts-savvy Asian market.

“In Asia, cabaret is very much considered by a very narrow definition- the late night ‘70s seedy kind of place where you slink in up the back to have a quiet moment away and so you don’t get seen by people. Someone in Korea told me ‘that’s the place where married people go and have affairs’. I think that there’s an opportunity for us to redefine what cabaret is for those audiences.”

The Roadshow will utilise two of the three available venues at the Hong Kong Fringe Club. Our Mob, the Adelaide Festival Centre’s indigenous art exhibition, will also be displayed in the gallery space.

Brookman says that the troupe of performers who will represent the Cabaret Festival are unique and a “nice cross section of what we do”. Amongst them will be Paul Capsis, Ali McGregor and Michael Griffiths.

The international venture is as exciting for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival as it is for South Australia. However, Brookman says it is dangerous to become too engrossed by statistics. This year’s event achieved a record box office, 21% higher than that of the previous year, but he believes that bigger is not necessarily better. Instead, the creative team are committed to improving the qualitative rather than the quantitative experience.

“Let’s see what really works, what were the real successes, what were the unique things that we did, and how we can both improve quality and experience while retaining the size. We want to continue developing and evolving but I don’t think we are necessarily going to try and make it bigger.”

Brookman is reluctant to give too much away about the 2014 festival, as Kate Ceberano’s last program and the identity of the incoming Artistic Director are some of the most closely guarded secrets.

“Kate really wants to refine what she’s done over the past two years, and what makes Australian cabaret. She’s exploring some of our local artists and also finding a headliner or two. She’s also exploring a couple of new venue options, which is exciting.”

Ben Nielsen

Ben Nielsen is an Adelaide based writer. He has contributed to a variety of publications including artsHub, Dandy Magazine, and the Adelaide* magazine.

Ben Nielsen

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