Creatures of the Night Cabaret started out in November 2016 as a one night only covers show by La Trobe University Student Theatre. While it shows its student origins, there’s no doubting the talents placed on display with scandalous style.
The Fringe guide promised “an evening of music, malevolence and mystery!” The basic setup is that intergalactic alien in human form Tran Zan (Director Sarah Wall), has invited monsters and miscreants from all over the planet to attend a party at her lair. The almost incidental mystery is that there may be a human in their midst.
There are certain persistent stereotypes about university productions. In keeping with a big one, here, each of the eleven performers had their time in the spotlight to perform a song. Mostly whilst this happened, other performers sat around watching from lounge chairs, presumably adhering to a mutual understanding of not pulling focus?
The work takes some inspiration (but not quite enough) from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, acknowledged with a snippet of Don’t Dream It, Be It late in the piece. I did get somewhat restless when it became clear that for many characters, their main function at the party was to sing a song about their backstory. Checking the programme given to punters on entry, you’ll see credits given for roles and songwriting duties. That there isn’t one for a writing team is somewhat telling.
There is a break in the pattern when permanently-furious demon Gonk (Ryan Smith) makes a comment along the lines of “We’ve got the most evil serial killers and monsters in the room, but we haven’t done anything yet except sing some slightly campy songs!” Its unfortunate that this flash of self-awareness wasn’t a jumping off point for a change to the format.
With these fairly obvious criticisms out of the way, we can turn to the show’s various good features. This incarnation of the show has 12 original songs across a range of styles, and most were performed at a high vocal and musical standard. Dr Henry Jekyll (Sean Sully) stood out for some good, manic work on keys.
The costumes were useful in referencing horror archetypes and tweaking them enough to suit our characters’ quirks. A plum velour jacket helped vampire Heimlich (Matthew Howat) carry off his sleazy character and homo-erotically slanted Suck It. Bejewelled and silver-scaled sea siren Calypso (Grace Maddern) had fun with her power over men in a routine that showed that the ensemble could do well by varying the staging and giving us something different to look at.
All performers maintained their characterisations well. Particular credit is due to doll Peripheral Polly (Cat Sanzaro) who had much time in the action due to instrumental or vocal duties. She did well to project a childlike character with notes of demented enjoyment.
It’s not ready for the cult status of its inspiration yet, but the applause showed that Creatures of the Night Cabaret slayed its Friday audience.
Melbourne Fringe – Creatures of the Night Cabaret
Main Theatre – Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Friday 22 September 2017 – 9.30pm
Image: courtesy of GJ Productions
Review: Jason Whyte