Review: Robyn Archer’s Picaresque
Posted on: Fri 15 Mar 2019
Robyn Archer is not only a superb entertainer – she is also a magnificent collector. On the way into the Festival Centre’s banquet room, taking a lot of time to stop and exclaim your amazement and amusement, you walk past what she calls her ‘Wall of Shame’ – three walls in fact – efficiently arranged with hundreds, no, thousands, of items she has collected in her travels since she left her hometown Adelaide in 1977 for a start-studded worldwide career in theatre and cabaret. The exhibition is arranged by genre – plane and train tickets, ballpoint pens, dozens of hotel scuffs, airline toiletries, even electronic door keys (how did she manage to keep those? ( Persuasive charm no doubt).
Inside the banquet room we walk into a semi-circular seat setting, and in the centre about 30 cardboard models of significant buildings in cities throughout the world, on tables set around with light bulbs, From the Sydney Opera House to St. Peter’s in
Rome and New York’s Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Geoff Cobham has been very busy with the sticky tape and paste, expertly putting them together.
Robyn, enjoying being back home, treats us to a travelogue in song, often with her own guitar, taking crack accordionist George Butrumlis along for the ride. In her inimitable style she takes us around the world, with anecdotes about the cities she has played in, from Adelaide to Amsterdam, London to Lucknow. Her American song is the Depression’s ‘Brother, can you spare me a dime?’. For Sydney she sang one of her own songs, ‘A Ride on the Harbour’ – nostalgic for me, who lived near the Harbour for a decade.
The songs are enriched by Robyn’s excellent articulation, and also by often being sung next to the spotlit model of the building of the city being sung about. A Brecht/Weil specialist, she is generous with Germany. And for Paris, to which she soon returns, she gives us an affecting ‘La Vie en Rose’. But she ends with a tour of America, from California to Missouri to New England to New York, in a brilliant pastiche of (usually) the opening lines of songs about some of the cities and towns she has toured, finishing with a joyous ‘We’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy!’.
A great show by a great, multi-talented artist!
Picaresque continues in the Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Sunday 17 March. Exhibition open from 10 am. Check Festival calendar for performance times.