Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Steve Sheehan’s Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde. Photo: Sam Oster
Tristan and Isolde. Photo: Sam Oster

An ageing opera singer, a miniature horse and a background comedian walk into a pokey, underground performance space.  It’s the setup to one of the most abstract cabaret acts of the Festival.

There’s no doubt that venue spaces at the Festival Centre are packed during the Cabaret Festival, but the use of the pokey, rehearsal room under the Festival Theatre stage as a performance space is either genius or madness – it’s difficult to tell. It’s small (only seats about 40) and intimate, but also sweltering hot (which is saying something in the middle of winter).

Venue aside, audiences would be attracted to this quirky piece based on Sheehan’s reputation for his unique brand of comedy. His almost whimsical view of the world and quiet contemplation of the banal elicits giggles from even the most contrary of audiences.

Tristan (Sheehan) is a “background comedian” who performs comedy acts as background noise at restaurants. He is sitting unnoticed in the love of his life’s (Norma Knight) dressing room as she prepares for a grand opera performance. Using primarily a keyboard and a stack of old classical music pieces, Sheehan provides a quirky insight to the world. While the actual punch lines are mild, it’s the deadpan delivery and the absurd juxtaposition of ideas that delivers the giggles, which spatter across the audience as each individual “gets” the joke.

The highlight of the production is definitely the aural translation of the opera on cue-cards and projections; you’ll never listen to Wagner the same way again. Knight demonstrates her extensive operatic career with a level of restraint suited to the piece and the space. Stealing the show is the adorable surprise guest of Arapahoe, the miniature horse – you have to see it to believe it really.

An interesting offering in the Festival that is its own unique style and genre. See it with an open mind and bring a portable fan.

Steve Sheehan's Tristan and Isolde
Review Date: 16/06/2015
Presented By: Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Directed By: Steve Sheehan with Jo Stone
Venue: Festival Theatre Rehearsal Room
Opening Date: 16/06/2015
Closing Date: 17/06/2015
Online: BASS
Phone: 131 246

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Hayley was an arts worker in South Australia for twelve years working freelance for small to medium clients as well as for companies such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Theatre Company SA, Urban Myth Theatre of Youth and the Australia Business Arts Foundation. As part of her freelance work, Hayley founded the ATG Curtain Call Awards (which is now an annual gala event), co-produced three 24 Hour Show charity fundraiser events, has judged for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and reviewed for Aussie Theatre and the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Hayley now runs a boutique events and arts management business, Footlight Events and in her spare time, is involved with Adelaide’s amateur theatre community as a producer, performer and director.

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