It’s worth seeing Blak Cabaret to hang outside in the Malthouse forecourt, and it’s impossible not to love Kahmahi Djordon King in a frock.
Conceived by Jason Yamiru, Blak Cabaret is part loud, brash and sequins, and part heart, land and song. The combination of songs that hurt to hear and satire (written by Nikkiah Lui) that can hurt to watch is what makes cabaret a form than can change views of the world.
Black queen, Queen Constantina Bush (frocked up magnificently by Chloe Greaves) arrives in white Australia and declares it terra nullius. With assistant Nikki Ashby, making hip hop hipper, and keeping her out of line, Queen Constantina dismisses disgusting white culture, fake apologises and insists that the audience prove that they are white. We’re drinking fizz at the opening night of an Indigenous cabaret in Melbourne’s inner city: oh yeah, we’re white.
It’s funny and lots of fun, but it’s satire that grabs the obvious and doesn’t have that biting reflection of something like the “take a selfie with a black kid” in 2015’s Hipbone Sticking Out. It’s satirising those silly white people who don’t get it, rather than us who drink at Indigenous cabaret shows and claim to understand.
The heart comes in with Deline Briscoe, Emma Donavan, Kutcha Edwards and Bart Willoughby playing and singing. Willoughby formed No Fixed Address (Australia’s first Indigenous rock band) in 1978 and has been playing and performing all over the world, and teaching and mentoring, ever since. He’s one of those performers who you’ve probably seen (he been in things like Wim Wender’s film Until the End of the World) but don’t know his name. I’ve been looking at his website; I had no idea he’d done so much. Look him up. He’s pretty amazing.
Luckily the stormed out night has passed and the weather is looking good for the rest of week. Blak Cabaret is a lovely start to the Malthouse’s year and let’s hope for a tear of more experiments, diverse voices and risks.