Grow Old Disgracefully

Growing Old Disgracefully Cabaret Fringe 2018Cabaret Fringe Festival. Pat Wilson & Adrian Barnes. Studio 166, Goodwood Institute. 7 Jun 2018


Adelaide has been richer since the return of Pat Wilson and Adrian Barnes. Their theatre arts and musical skills have been missed. So it is joy to roll along to Studio 166 for a spot to recherche du temps perdu laced with a spot of the wickedly new.


Wilson, still in the trademark apple-framed glasses and clad in a swirling shift of riotous hue, makes wonderful music upon the big, black grand piano, beaming welcome to audience members coming through the door. Barnes, on the ticket desk, asks everyone to settle in and feel as if they are at home in the Wilson-Barnes living room. This show, he presages, is just like that, an evening at their home.

Barnes, battling a catastrophically timed loss of voice on opening night, warns that Wilson will carry the show to make up for it, and she is the better half anyway.


The evening swings and sings forth. Studio 166, the old front room of the Institute now lined with long black curtains, turns out to have good acoustics. The stars have no mikes. It’s old-fashioned salon entertainment in the tradition of Pat Wilson who once adorned the Festival Centre piano bar with very much this ilk of entertainment; hence some of her satiric songs. She’s our own Tom Lehrer.


She opens the show with a Lehrer song in duet with Barnes. All very quippy and witty, just like the ensuing content which comes from decades of Barnes&Wilson, Wilson&Barnes collaboration. There are snippets of Gilbert & Sullivan, old tunes re-used, nostalgia, self-parody, whimsy and some diabolically clever rhymes. “Embitter us” rhymes with “clitoris”. Genius. There’s more where that came from. Plenty. Even with Barnes's temporary vocal handicap, he still brought the room to tears with his glorious “The sperm wail” and “What does a Tranny Granny wear?” Wilson played with a huge range of high registers and Barnes with his mellifluous lows. Both slayed with the impish clevers. For an audience, it’s easy pleasure.


Wilson keeps a copy of the day’s paper on the piano and, after some bemoaning the standards of the Murdochian day, picks out a news item and does a current affairs satiric ditty. This is the stuff which made her famous. She ain’t lost her touch.


Yes, we’re all a lot older now than in the fun days of yore. And, every bit as disgraceful.

Catch ‘em if you can.


Samela Harris


When: 7 to 16 June

Where: Studio 166, Goodwood Institute


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