When I read that the talented duo from The Jane Austen Argument, Tom Dickens and Jen Kingwell, had their hand in The Damsel in Shining Armour (director and pianist/musical director respectively), not even the mention of Celine Dion songs could make me run for the hills. The Damsel in Shining Armour, written and performed by Sophie Walsh-Harrington is a beautifully odd and, often, hilarious cabaret that showcases her exquisite vocals and comedy talents.
Admittedly, I’d never heard of Walsh-Harrington prior to her show last night. But that’s the beauty of reviewing, discovering these precious gems for the first time in a space no bigger than your lounge room (oh how I love La Mama!). As soon as Walsh-Harrington opens her mouth, you realise the girl sure can sing. It’s such a privilege to watch a performer who really knows her craft. And even though Walsh-Harrington uses Celine Dion’s songs superbly for comical effect, she also manages to give the songs a poignancy that I wouldn’t have thought possible for a Dion song. Go figure.
And with a great voice like this, you might expect to hear that the songs are the heart of this cabaret show, but the script – an abstract celebration and parody of love and creating melodrama in one’s life – is really solid as well as Walsh-Harrington’s ability to be physically droll and engaging. She really is a talented all-rounder.
I’ve only seen The Jane Austen Argument’s The Spaces Between and, though, a very different show to The Damsel in Shining Armour, I can certainly see their influence in this show with Dickens and Kingwell’s able handling of direction and music. It’s obvious that this show is nicely bound with parameters that demonstrate creative people at the helm who understand their artist and the piece.
The Damsel in Shining Armour is a really gorgeous production offering loads of laughs and fun with the time lapsing oh too quickly that, at the end, one feels propelled to shout out ‘Encore, encore!’ Just be sure not to miss this show when it does the rounds in Melbourne and Adelaide. You won’t be disappointed.