Review: Australia Tour 2015

Peter Wilkins, 19th June 2015

Canberra Critics Circle

Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Ian Shaw

When is an hour simply not enough? When it is spent with singer/songwriter, pianist extraordinaire and rapier-sharp wit, Ian Shaw. London-based Shaw premieres his unique brand of jazz and original variations on popular songs with the flamboyant panache of a fearless raconteur. With a delectable taste for biting satire, verging teasingly on the bitchy, he tears into the “shit singers” who dare to attempt covers of the great singers, or the drag queens who would strive to impersonate the great Ella Fitzgerald. Nothing or no one is spared his swiping lyrics. From superfoods like the Quatromiserie Pizza or the Insalata Regrette with Remorse dressing to Quinoa, he makes a quick meal of food fads.

In the Australian premiere of his latest cabaret show, A Bit Of Mouthful, Shaw is not remiss in exposing his own peccadilloes. Childhood memories of bedwetting and school-day recollections lend his revelation a touch of pathos, cloaked in humour or poignancy avoided with a swift serve of cynicism or deprecation. Noel Coward would be proud of his acerbic dismissal of anyone he dislikes who would seek to be his friend, such as unfortunate school associate Graham Yeats. Shaw is not one to tolerate fools gladly, and his phenomenal talent is all the armoury he needs to cut the pretentious down to size. His original lampoon of abbreviated text, delivered in a sequence of only occasionally recognizable messages such as lol is a triumph of patter and wit.

There are moments when Shaw takes a turn to expose the private heart, the gay man’s need for love in his tender, soulful rendition of the Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers song I Wish I Were In Love Again. In a show that touches poignantly on the personal at times, he reveals the vulnerable nature of love in a moving rendition of Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen’s classic Judy Garland song, The Man That Got Away. In an extraordinary display of his piano playing talent Shaw accompanies his friend, Glyinis Traill-Nash, fashion editor for The Australian and renowned Blues singer, whom he invites on stage to sing Sister. Traill-Nash’s resonant and resonating rendition is brilliantly accompanied by Nash, much to the delight of the audience, who have come to Shaw’s final appearance at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Shaw’s planned Canberra visit has been postponed to 2016, when he will be appearing at The Street Theatre. A Bit Of A Mouthful is not to be missed cabaret, a unique concoction of blistering wit, idiosyncratic singing, surprising jazz syncopation and superb piano playing. An Adelaide Cabaret Festival coup, Shaw is sure to surprise, delight and give you an unforgettable, value-packed hour of first class entertainment.