Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Urban Display Suite

Urban Display SuiteThe ‘great Australian dream’ of home ownership is embedded in Australian culture. A home is security, a status symbol, a standard of living. It’s our obsession. Michael Dalley, in Urban Display Suite, hilariously illuminates our unnatural fascination with the property market.

Dalley, creator of hit shows Vaudeville X and Intimate Apparel, undoubtedly has a knack for satirical social commentary. Urban Display Suite provides a delightful virtual tour of modern society, poking fun at real-estate agents, the current economic climate and even the average Joe. His sharp wit and clever turn of phrase make topics like urban sprawl, medium density living and the inequities of the property boom suddenly seem more interesting.

Michael Dalley, with co-stars Lyall Brooks (the smarmy real-estate agent), Gabrielle Quin and Sharon Davis, entered the Banquet Room at Adelaide Festival Theatre with clipboard in hand, ready for business. Bursting with energy and enthusiasm the ensemble were out to sell the ‘Little-bit-of-everything-McMansions’, the humble suburban home and even the sky. To aid potential buyers, Dalley and his team provided brochures and pamphlets promoting their virtual properties with literary gems like: ‘A renovators dream – like new kitchen, cosy living area and three bedroom-apostrophe-s’. Along with the hilarious opening number, ‘Real Estate: The White-Collar Job for the Blue-Collar Brain’, the tone for the night was set.

The musical numbers, accompanied by John Thorn on piano and accordion, were really all about the lyrics. Issues with sound balance, musical clarity and overall polish didn’t detract from the humour of the libretto itself. Lyall Brooks’ solo number, ‘One Day This Will all be Mine’, an ode to inheritance, was among the highlights, as was ‘Shit Art of the Mornington Peninsula’, paying homage to the lacklustre décor of display homes.

The timely variations between solo, duet and ensemble numbers provided some welcome light and shade and helped to avoid the danger of a volume contest between the singers. I’m sure some members of the audience also welcomed the chance to grab some deep breaths between laughs. The duet between Dalley and Quin, ‘It’s A Terrible School but the Grounds are Stunning’, was a personal highlight.
While talk of negative gearing, interest rates, and the property boom has never set my heart racing, this upbeat and satirical laugh-fest was a refreshingly unique take on modern Australian society.  18-19 June, 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *