Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Shaken – A James Bond Cabaret

MCF Shaken - A James Bond CabaretAfter 50 years of James Bond films, the arguments about who was the best 007 have gone on long enough. Using “science and grade 6 maths”, Shaken – A James Bond Cabaret is going to settle the matter once and for all…

West Australian vocalists Charlie D Barkle and Erin Hutchinson (fresh from her stand-out Gala spot with What Doesn’t Kill You [blah blah] Stronger) know that such life-and-death matters demand tuxedos. Attired accordingly, our hosts assigned pluses and minuses to each 007 in turn.

Criteria included counts of plots foiled or how many times they’ve cheated death, which contributed to a final score. In between the scoring rounds, our duo took on a selection of Bond film themes, occasionally adding goofy physical humour to some quality vocal performances.

It’s a little generous to call this “Cabaret”. Our hosts could just as well be “hired guns” as we don’t get that much idea of what the Bond oeuvre means to them. The singing was a little pitchy at times, which we can hope was due to opening night nerves.

There’s certainly a good concept in the show, but it would benefit from going back to “Q branch” for further polish. By scrutinising the Bonds one at a time, some drop out of the race for supremacy well before the end. Also, there was a certain amount of repetition, which became a drag on the show’s momentum.

Assigning scores in rounds to all Bonds (like the Brownlow Medal count) could maintain the tension if there were lead changes over the categories. It would also provide the option of quick reveals of pre-entered scores to keep the pace up. As it stands, the show feels like a good idea that’s being stretched too far to fill an hour. This is unfortunate as various aspects of the films could be targets for satire and provide further variety in proceedings.

The work was at its best when it showed us some innovation; D Barkle’s opening mashup of the three Shirley Bassey themes was a good way to quickly cover ground and highlight features. The pair certainly seemed to enjoy themselves on stage and were brimming with franchise trivia. When they chose the right songs, the joint effort could be as stylish as an Aston Martin – their take on Skyfall was a ripper.

Questionable features of the scoring algorithm suggest that Shaken – A James Bond Cabaret is likely to cause more arguments than it settles. A vodka martini or two might further aid enjoyment of the on-stage silliness.

Shaken – A James Bond Cabaret
The Loft – Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Wednesday 20 June 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 23 June 2018
Information and Bookings: www.melbournecabaret.com

Image:  Shaken – A James Bond Cabaret (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte

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