Adelaide Cabaret Festival: Em Rusciano – Difficult Woman

ACF Em Rusciano - photo by Claudio Raschella

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is one of my favourite festivals in Adelaide. Every year I can’t wait to see who is in the program and when I saw that Em Rusciano was bringing her Difficult Woman show to the Festival Theatre I was intrigued.

I missed her tour a few months earlier and I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. After all there has been a lot of fuss lately. Her show’s title has been brought to life in what you could almost describe as a “fake reality”. If you believe certain media outlets she’s toxic or difficult to work with.

Is she difficult? To be frank – so what if she is? Why aren’t strong men classified as difficult to work with??? Personally, I didn’t see that in the full-on 2 hour show. What I saw was (cue all the adjectives) a fierce and fiery strong willed assertive and intelligent woman. A wog woman at that! One who isn’t afraid to show all her strengths and weaknesses because isn’t that what a real woman is or should be? Well what a woman she is! Oh and she can sing and entertain as well.

There’s no subtle entrance for Rusciano. She walked on stage with a bang looking all young and thin (she may or may not have suggested that description) in her red jumpsuit. The energy was electric from the moment she started. Kesha’s Woman was the first song, setting the tone for the night.

Encouraging the audience to sing the chorus I’m a Motherf*cking Woman ensuring us a show of zero inhibitions but plenty of F*cks, C*nts and Difficult Woman expletives. Raw, honest and unapologetic. Rusciano was a rebel WITH a cause and everyone loved it!

Have you ever been to a show where the artist does the first song twice in a row? Well if you come late to an Em Rusciano show she will call you out for it- “you’re late and missed the first song”. But there was a classic Em Rusciano audience reply – “Do the song again.”

So of course, we were all treated to Woman again but this time with more ferocity and confidence. Even spilling a bottle of wine and dropping herself to the floor to lick it up was just to show as she put it “how much she was one of us”. Now the show had really began!

Accompanied by an 15 piece band we were treated to a mix of song and her own brand of comedy with the emotion only Rusciano can deliver. It was at times ballsy with such iconic female classic songs like Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love, Madonna’s Express Yourself, Donna Summer’s She Works Hard For The Money, Melissa Etheridge’s Like The Way I Do and Tina Arena’s Chains. While her softer tender side made an appearance through John Farnham’s Help.

The band and “backing Bitches” deserve a mention. The rapport between Rusciano and her band was just as entertaining as the show itself. She made sure they all had moments to shine and it was nice seeing a big happy family on stage. I’ve never seen a band back an artist where they’re happily laughing along if they were in the audience themselves, enjoying all her impulsive antics and not thrown out by any of them.

Musical Director Chong Lim had a smile and chuckle throughout the show. So did John Farnham’s guitarist Brett Garsed as many gags were directed to them and her borderline actually ‘over the line’ stalking obsession of (as she affectionately calls him) John Peter Farnham. Considering most of the musicians were from Farnham’s band it’s safe to say Rusciano has a disturbingly unhealthy Farnsey obsession!

There were moments of raw honest admissions and frustrations and nothing was off topic. From the recent media sh*t storm, to her marital ups and downs, to the loving – and I mean in an Em Rusciano “loving” way – of Vincey and Jenny’s (her parents) love story.

We even got a glimpse of Vincey and Jenny when she forced them to “get the f*ck up here” on stage to dance while she sang Stevie Wonder’s Do I Do, being the song they would always dance to together. While Jenny was a bit shy good ole Vincey was more than enthusiastic to trip the light fantastic.

Coming back after intermission she stunned in a fabulous Scarlet Adams red gown complete with hula hoop where the audience were in hysterics as she described the difficulty of getting into the lavish dress. There was no room in the dress and yes, she wasn’t shy in showing us that even a pair of panties couldn’t be worn for her to fit. We didn’t ass-k to see it, but we did!

A big supporter and mentor for Rusciano is Tina Arena. Her stories had us in stitches especially the way she can impersonate Arena so perfectly. While her wog accent is on point, I could relate in so many ways! I can see many similarities between the two women both being strong and opinionated which are good qualities to have.

To make the most of the opportunity to sing with a 15 piece band she sang the ultimate and appropriate song for herself, Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. It was a dream come true for her to sing this song. Proving that all that the bad press and sh*t written about her was not going to bring her down as she powered through and wow, did she give an all mighty and gutsy performance.

Empowering women with her brash and sassy comedy which is often honest and brutal but always relevant, Em Rusciano can’t be shhushh’d. She’s in her own words “not a piece of fluff” and as her husband tells her “she’s here to draw the heat for all other women and going to lead them in the revolution.”

Rusciano is not difficult, she just knows what she wants so don’t put her on a pedestal as she will disappoint you. She’s more than happy to stay on our level and that’s why we love her. She’s one of us just with more courage. Viva la Rusciano Revolution!

Em Rusciano – Difficult Woman
Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Street, Adelaide
Performance: Saturday 9 June 2018 – 8.00pm

Image: Em Rusciano – photo by Claudio Raschella

Review: Anastasia Lambis – courtesy of All About Entertainment