The Persiflage and the Passion

Cabaret Politico @ The Folkus Room. Wed 25th Feb
Shortis and Simpson joined by Frankie Armstrong in “Frankie and Fearless”

by Cath Lawrence

Shortis and Simpson are a Canberra duo of musical political satirists.  They are bitingly sharp and funny, with a sense of humour that ranges all the way from erudite Latin puns down to fart jokes. This year, they plan a series of  shows featuring up-to-the-minute lampooning of current affairs, each with a special guest. February 25th was the first show in this series, and the special guest was Frankie Armstrong. Thanks to Culturazi, my partner and I got free tickets.

It was a great show. The Folkus Room has recently changed venues to the Italo-Australian Club in Forrest, where they have commandeered most of the bistro seating. It’s almost dinner theatre in style, which suits the cabaret atmosphere. The rest of the club is only split off by a few partitions, so there was some noise up the back. I’ll blog the food at my own site. In short: stick with the pizza or pasta.  Don’t try the veal.

It was, though, a very curious exercise in political contrasts. We have the modern sensibility – Moya’s powerful voice belted out in styles from Weimar cabaret to light pop parodies. We heard Pennies From Kevin, A Leader called Barack, and a final hilarious spooneristic monologue about that fart smeller Revvin’ Cud, and former sock wringer Gita Parrot. Joe Hockey will never be the same. And in between, we went back to the 70s for a few songs. The difference was wrenching.

Frankie Armstong is also a poweful singer. Her career as a folk singer began in 1964. Perhaps it was travel fatigue, or perhaps it’s age, but she wasn’t quite on the ball. She had one false start, and a few problems with hoarseness and tone at the start of a couple of her songs. But she warmed up into them, and brought all the mesmerising energy of the 60s and 70s protest movements to her songs. Passionate, soaring, tragic lyrics by and about the Chilean poet Victor Jara, tortured and murdered under the Pinochet regime. A 70’s feminist reply to an Edith Piaf song.

I found it a fascinating evening: funny and tragic by turns. Frankie’s numbers were nostalgic to me, a former 70’s teenager. I wonder how much a younger audience would have connnected, if at all. The passion of the 1970’s seems so naive in contrast to the cynical satire of the 2000s, but passion itself is surely universal.  And bear would wee wee now, without those 70’s activists?

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