‘What Comes Next’, what came before and what’s coming later – Ali McGregor on the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

This year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival is all about ‘What Comes Next’ – what comes next for the festival’s home, the Adelaide Festival Centre, in the midst of a 90 million dollar redevelopment, what comes next for the festival, and what comes next for cabaret as a whole.

Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect - co-artistic directors of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Image by Claude Raschella
Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect – co-artistic directors of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Image by Claude Raschella

With both the venue and the genre of cabaret undergoing huge changes and expansions, alternative cabaret King and Queen Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect seem like a natural choice as Artistic Directors for this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the biggest cabaret festival in the world.

A veteran performer at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Ali McGregor has been an advocate and a lover of the festival for many years.

“I remember just sitting in the Intercontinental with David and Lisa Campbell, Trevor Ashley and everyone, and saying that I’d found my creative home,” she said.

McGregor has long been one of the quirkier offerings of the festival, with a background ranging from opera to jazz to circus, so it’s not surprising that she and Perfect, as co-Artistic Directors, have brought some new and exotic acts to this year’s festival.

Die Roten Punkte are set to shake things up. Image by Andrew Wuttke
Die Roten Punkte are set to shake things up. Image by Andrew Wuttke

Fringe favourites Die Roten Punkte, local clown Hew Parham, the indescribable “Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho” and the completely unpredictable Miss Behave’s Gameshow are all set to shake things up, but McGregor is quick to point out that the classic cabaret is represented too, with crooners such as Tom Burlinson and outstanding musical theatre voices like Megan Hilty and Helen Dallimore.

According to McGregor, what she and Perfect looked for in their acts wasn’t necessarily experimentalism or modern flair, but instead a sense of personality and confession.

“[We looked for] a sense of intimacy, even if it’s in a 2000-seat theatre,” McGregor said of the scouting process, which took her, Perfect and the Adelaide Festival Centre team all over the globe in search of the best-fitting acts for this year’s lineup.

Interestingly, McGregor’s experience of travelling for work, both as a performer and as a programmer, was one of the inspirations for another recurring theme this festival – family friendly content.

Often travelling to arts festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe with her two children in tow, McGregor noticed that, although the girls loved the children’s content, what seemed to fascinate them most was the glamorous-but-age-appropriate evening cabaret performances they would sit in on with their mum.

As such, this year’s program features performances such as the Family Gala, an event the creative team hope will be repeated, and Frank Woodley in The Composer is Dead, which is a rare collaboration between the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Adelaide Festival Centre’s ‘Something On Saturday’ children’s programming.

Although these performances will be suitable for kids, they won’t be “kiddy”, emphasised McGregor.

“I want it to be the kind of show that three generations can go to and enjoy,” said McGregor of the Family Gala, which will feature some of the best acts of the festival (some with their content a little, let’s say, cleaned up) and space at the front of the theatre for little ones to dance.

Dita Von Teese will headline at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2016. Image by Ali Mahdavi
Dita Von Teese will headline at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2016. Image by Ali Mahdavi

But of course, the headliner of this year’s festival, who is sure to be the talk of the town, is not among the family friendly performers. Dita von Teese will be bringing her world-famous performance, ‘Burlesque: Strip, Strip Hooray!” to Adelaide for the first time, toting her famous Swarovski Martini Glass, amongst other props and favourite routines. Also coming along for the ride will be Dita’s MC and friend Murray Hill, who performed at the Adelaide Festival Centre earlier this year with ‘Club Swizzle’, laying the groundwork for this sought-after performance that McGregor proudly labelled “a coup”.

As a co-Artistic Director for a festival with so many big names, while also juggling her own show in the festival – Decadence – and continuing to work on other upcoming projects, McGregor is likely to be run off her feet this June, but she confessed that she is used to juggling, and that it often motivates her to work harder.

“The more you have to juggle, the higher you throw!” she said.

As is the curse for any two-year contract in a festival like this, McGregor is also, of course, already juggling the programming for next year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

So what comes next after “What Comes Next”?

Ali kept her cards close to her chest, but admitted that she’s already got a few spectacular aces in the hole for 2017.

Check out the full Adelaide Cabaret Festival program here

Paige Mulholland

Paige Mulholland is an Adelaide based writer, reviewer and perpetual volunteer for all things artsy in Adelaide. She has a double degree in International Relations and Journalism, and and writes for Adelaide Theatre Guide and ArtsHub as well as AussieTheatre.com. In her spare time, she takes classes in dance, voice and theatre, and sometimes has deep philosophical discussions with her cats.

Paige Mulholland

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