Phil Scott’s new show is the type of show that every cabaret festival needs – a cabaret about cabaret.
Scott tells the good, the bad and the ugly from his 30 years working in cabaret, and in doing so reveals a lot about what cabaret has been in Australia over the past three decades. Not that he sets out to give us his impressions of an entire industry or anything, it’s just that in every story there’s a moment of history or a description of something long lost.
But this is not a history lesson. This is a ‘best of’ a performer and writer who is equally respected for his work on the cabaret stage, as part of Sydney Theatre Company’s wildly popular Wharf Revue and as a writer working on all kinds of projects from major musicals to television. But his heart has always belonged to cabaret; the artform that with the exception of perhaps cheese sculpting, is the most difficult to make a living out of.
In ‘Cabaret Survivor’ he hits on stories from his early days struggling to get just ten people in the door for his cabarets through to working as a script consultant on the Broadway production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. There’s a Peter Allen parody and even bit of diva name-dropping, from Bette Midler to a hilarious Bea Arthur story. He even channels Liberace and tells the ill-fated story of the long forgotten Wunnerful Liberace, the 1998 Sydney Theatre Company show that almost bought him international success.
On the cabaret stage, Scott is right at home, lifting the audience up and leading them through a night packed full of comedy with just a little pathos chucked in for good measure. For those who have never seen Scott in cabaret before, he’s a formidable pianist, and self-accompanies. It’s a true one-man show. There are, of course, many superlatives you could throw around about his performance style, but perhaps the most apt word is ‘generous’.
It’s this aspect of his performances that has won him a small, but devoted following, with the audience featuring fellow comedian Paul McDermott, fellow cabaret star Trevor Ashley and father of Priscilla Queen of the Desert Stephan Elliot.
The audience may have been a little disappointed that on the night Rudd returned there was only a tiny taster of Scott’s infamous Rudd impersonation, but this is a show about Scott and everything he’s done in the world of cabaret. He’s a performer who can proudly claim that he’s not only survived but has years of fantastic work ahead of him.