Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

Life is a cabaret?

UK performers Frisky and Mannish are "brexiting" to Auckland for the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.
UK performers Frisky and Mannish are "brexiting" to Auckland for the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.

What: Auckland Live International Cabaret Season
Where & when: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, Basement Theatre and Freida Margolis; September 28 - October 2

It's Auckland's third international cabaret season and a sign - writ large in glitter and sequins - that this town is getting more serious about cabaret. It is the most eclectic of performing arts and hard to put into a neat little box and label. Just look at the programme for this year's season: a Parisian party girl, the James Dean of Jazz, a salute to Nina Simone, two British punks, a world of dreams, and a suite of New Zealand cabaret show premieres at the Basement Theatre. We asked some local and international acts what it's all about.

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS
Frisky and Mannish, CabaRIOT
"Life is a cabaret because it is a place where everything mingles. Like an excessively glittery speed-dating event. What are you looking for? "A tall magician with GSOH? He's third in the lineup, just after the tattooed-lady sword-swallower. Not your type? Okay, sit tight, we've got singers, comedians, dancers, burlesquers, contortionists, aerial acts, and a hell of a lot that doesn't exactly fit into one box - let's call them 'performance artists'.

"What we do is funny, but not a stand-up gig, musical but not a concert, saucy but not X-rated, cutting but not mean, frothy but not superficial. And cabaret gives us space in a way that no other genre quite can. CabaRIOT is our latest show and it aspires to be the best that cabaret can offer: fabulous entertainment with a provocative social comment underneath. We're angry about heaps of things currently happening on this poor planet, but if there's one thing that cabaret knows, it's that no show is just made up of one thing. So our show is not only angry, but funny, sexy, silly, edgy, weird, and varied."

CabaRIOT: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, Thursday, September 29 and Sunday, October 2.

Auckland composer Claire Cowan leads Blackbird Ensemble on a dreamy ride through music.
Auckland composer Claire Cowan leads Blackbird Ensemble on a dreamy ride through music.

A LOCAL ACT
Claire Cowan from Blackbird Ensemble, Dreams
"Dreams is performed by nine pyjama-clad multi-instrumentalist musicians. We're inviting you to our musical slumber party of epic proportions. It features music inspired by dreams, nightmares, lullabies, and the rites and rituals of the bedroom. It's a sexy and sensual look into the music of artists inspired by sleeping and dreaming - and who they choose to do it with.

"We want the experience of coming to our shows to be up-close, intimate and emotional. We do that through presenting music in fresh, original and theatrical ways. We blend musical genres irrespective of era or origin; Amy Winehouse and Radiohead sit alongside Piazolla, Nina Simone and Stravinsky and we even score out electronica into acoustic orchestral format.

"Vocalists Jessie Cassin and Mikey Brown head an ensemble including saxophone, trombone, violin, guitars, bass, keys and drums."

Dreams: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall; Friday, September 30.

Sheba Williams pays tribute to Nina Simone.
Sheba Williams pays tribute to Nina Simone.

Channelling a diva
Sheba Williams, Sheba's Tribute to Nina Simone
"Cabaret is a provocation to bring life back to the surface. Our collective obsession with the internet is making interactions increasingly tweaked and manicured. But cabaret in its truest essence has #NoFilter. It is raw, visceral spontaneous and connected; it will mess with your head, challenge your boundaries and arouse your sensibilities.

"Simone's music is just as subversive today as it was when she wrote it. She has influenced artists from Kanye West to David Bowie; Beyonce to the Beatles. Bob Dylan called her "an overwhelming artist ... and dynamite to see perform."

"She sang across genres: pop, soul, blues, gospel, R&B and folk. People say she was hip-hop 20 years before the beats arrived; she called what she did 'mass hypnosis', and liked to catch people off guard, which I love doing. But I am merely the conductor bewitching the gallery: this is alchemy, this is sorcery, this is cabaret."

Tribute to Nina Simone: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall; October 1-2.

Love Me Tinder explores the trials and tribulations of love in the era of Tinder.
Love Me Tinder explores the trials and tribulations of love in the era of Tinder.

A MUSICAL
Writer and director Stephen Sinclair, Love Me Tinder
"Actually, life isn't a cabaret. I'm a writer who lives and works alone. My life is a long, dreary novel full of obscure words that not even I understand.

"So imagine my excitement when my friend Mike Howie asked me to work with singer Amy Jansen on a musical/opera/cabaret about the Tinder phenomenon for his bar Freida Margolis [for 114 years it was the local meat traders].

"Love Me Tinder is born and suddenly my life is full of song - thanks to Amy and Tainui - my stars ... And Erin for his mellifluous composition. And Mel the barman, who's such a great rap-meister, we had to make him part of the show, and Liam for his piano accompaniment - the magic carpet of sound that gets the show airborne.

"If you want your life to be a cabaret then create one of your own. Thanks to technology and social media, we live in a world of never-ending novelty. Don't like the film you're watching or the song you're playing? Click yourself another. Don't like your friends? Unlike them on Facebook, ghost them into oblivion and get 1000 more. Don't like your partner? Download the app and find someone hunkier/slimmer/older/younger/more intelligent/more compatible.

"It's an endless variety show for a world with a short concentration span - especially when it comes to relationships. Swipe right and embrace the brave new world of Tinder!"

Love Me Tinder, Freida Margolis;
October 1-2.

- NZ Herald

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