In her own words, Ruth Wilkin has a lovely life. Her childhood was ordinary, she doesn’t strip or get nude for a living, and she’s not a member of a minority group. So rather than do what many other performers do and put on a cabaret show in which she describes her life in story and song, she has constructed a show made up of other people’s realities. True Stories is the delightful result.
Wilkin, who won Best Cabaret at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2012 for Just a Little Something I’ve Been Working On, is a low-key but lovely performer. For this year’s show (which actually premiered two years ago at the Butterfly Club), she talked to friends and trawled the internet to find all kinds of true stories, which she then turned into excellent original songs.
True Stories captivated from the very first song about ‘theatre ninjas’ (read the true story here) and proceeded to range over quirky and fascinating subjects including a spurned dentist’s revenge, the seven-year-old who wrote to the CSIRO and asked them to make her a dragon, a woman who married the Eiffel Tower, and the infamous botched restoration of a Spanish fresco depicting Jesus Christ ). A highlight was the poignant song about the Chinese man who carved 6000 little steps into a mountain to make it easier for his wife to walk down.
Projections on the back curtain helped to illustrate the stories Wilkin told, and her pianist, Barnaby Reiter, provided outstanding support in the vein of the great John Thorn (Reiter is a talent to watch). The only element that didn’t quite work for me was the ‘helpful customer reviews’ interspersed throughout the show, where Wilkin read selected comments on products at Amazon.com. These didn’t really fit the theme of the show and, while they were funny and served as a break from the songs, I don’t think they were necessary.[pull_left][/pull_left]
But brava to Ruth Wilkin. It’s great to see a solo show full of terrific original songs. More, please!