Adelaide Fringe. Adelaide Town Hall. 15 Feb 2014
If asked to name the classic subject matter for a cabaret show, life, death and sex should be high up the list. In ‘The Dark Garden’, Paul McDermott touches on all of these, but lingers on death, taking his audience through the five stages of grief: Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance, and… cross-dressing?
This is a return season for the ‘The Dark Garden’, which made its debut in the 2013 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. From it’s beginnings as an art installation in last year’s Fringe Festival, it’s only fitting that it is running in this more evolved form a year later.
McDermott has done well to translate the work from one-dimension to three. Taking the music he wrote while producing the artwork (on show in the backdrop of the Adelaide Town Hall stage), he interweaves it with storytelling and his trademark aggressive humour to produce a show that is truly unique.
The music is introspective and emotionally charged; the sad and rueful ‘Her Agoraphobic Hands’ draws you in, while the turmoil conveyed by others is visceral. Using art as a catharsis for mental distress is not exactly new, but it’s rare that you get a chance to have such insight into the inspiration behind artistic work.
The audience is treated to many such insights as McDermott paints the stories behind the songs, and while he never strays far from the dark corners of his mind, the mix of emotion-drenched music and irreverent comedy balances the piece perfectly. Even when obviously moved by reliving difficult memories through his songs, McDermott’s cheeky humour raises the mood and is clearly part of his coping mechanism.
Swearing his way through a hilarious array of anecdotes, he showcases his ability to spin a yarn and invites as much audience reaction and interaction as possible. You won’t struggle to join in.
Where: Adelaide Town Hall