The 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival is mere weeks away and with this year’s tagline a lingering ‘What Comes Next…’, the program curated by incoming Artistic Directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect is indeed diverse and does well in breaking traditions.
Taking the concept of ‘cabaret’ and the different forms of artistic expression that can be pulled under its banner, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this year looks at what could be the next trend, the artists who are playing with convention and by extension, creating boundary-pushing works and setting the genre up for an exciting future.
In the Australian contingent of this year’s program exists some eclectic talent and in local Adelaide artist Hew Parham, audiences can expect to see some perceptions of ‘cabaret’ turned on its head. His show, Rudi’s The Rinse Cycle, introduces Adelaide Cabaret Festival crowds to Rudi (a character born out of Parham’s time at Berlin Cabaret at the Weimar Room in Adelaide) – as Parham describes, a sweet character who is set to absorb cabaret classics in his own way.
“It is in the nature of the show that he does transform,” Parham says. “In some ways, I’m satirising cabaret and some of the clichés of cabaret, so at some point he does transform into this burnt out, alcoholic diva.”
“He is very naïve in a way and very sweet,” he says of Rudi’s charm. “You always find that there is some aspect of yourself in your character and it always depends on which direction it goes in. I think with Rudi, there’s something quite beautiful about him in that sweet clown way, like, ‘Why do people hurt each other?’ or, ‘I’ve got a spare bedroom, why can’t we let someone stay here?’. He’s probably the sweetest character I’ve played, but I wonder if the edge and the politics and the satire and my attack on the show is almost the strongest that I’ve had out of any other show. It’s weird, it’s almost like his sweetness and his charm allows a way to express through that naivety or that sweetness.”
At the time of our chat, Parham is open about how the show has been continuing to develop and in ways, having Rudi exist as this portal of sorts to channel different messages he himself believes in and desires to convey, has been both a challenge as well as an engaging artistic endeavour.
“Rudi is always there, he’s totally there,” he affirms. “It’s almost like he’s a bit of a template by which things can get projected on. It does come into my shows a little bit, in terms of there always being some perception of identity or discovery and Rudi always felt more elusive than some of my other characters, because there was this projection out into these other characters. It’s almost like a little more of that journey towards self-discovery in the end, him being comfortable with himself and being enough.”
A popular fixture on the Adelaide arts scene for some time now, Parham’s characters have seen him explore wide range of styles and personas, whether it be through the outrageous antics of waiter Giovanni or the ever entertaining Schmoo the clown. For Rudi and his Adelaide Cabaret Festival debut, Parham explains the influence of Chaplin on his latest outing.
“I’ve just started watching a lot of Chaplin for some reason, who is someone I’ve always admired, but I’ve never really obsessed over his work.” he says. “I just started watching and it’s like I’d finally got it for the first time. Now when people go, ‘Chaplin’s not funny,’ I’m like, ‘No! He’s funny!’ – there’s so much more going on.”
“I became obsessed with that movie Modern Times,” he mentions. “He just keeps moving the goalposts; his comedic logic is brilliant and his political, societal messages…how efficient he is with no language, it’s extraordinary. What he can do and say…at least, for one part of the show, I wanted to challenge myself in a cabaret environment, to have a moment where I express without using too much language. Language can almost be a bit too easy but in some ways, when you take language away, people can interpret things differently.”
With Rudi making his debut at the Adelaide Festival Centre during the Cabaret Festival’s opening weekend, Parham’s excited about the direction the show is currently headed and the idea of the type of audience who may be coming to the festival’s diverse program of shows this year.
“It’s a really great program and I feel privileged and honoured to be asked to be a part of it.” he says. “I think that something the producers saw in a performance that I did of Rudi last year was in the clown stuff and seeing that connection to the audience, they [maybe] wanted to tease the boundaries of cabaret a little bit. I’ve tried to take that into my show. It’s been a funny one to pin down or define or discover. Where other times, Giovanni came from a strong impulse in what I wanted to say, this was coming more from the character. It’s taken some time.”
“There is cabaret in there, but I realised that I can’t just make a cabaret; I feel like there has to be a depth of meaning and that illogical clown perspective that I have on the world and that my characters have on the world. Maybe the show is about celebrating your own uniqueness, so it’s funny, sometimes you’ve got to go on that journey yourself. I can’t make a show that someone else is going to make or someone else wants, I’ve just got to make a show that expresses how I want to express and connect. It took some time to discover that, but it’s really starting to zing now, with that in mind.”
Rudi’s The Rinse Cycle runs at the Artspace from June 11th – June 13th. For ticketing and show information, head to the show’s official Cabaret Festival page HERE.
Images by Sophie Armstrong.