Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Paul McDermott: The Dark Garden

Paul McDermott
Paul McDermott

I f*@king love Paul f*@king McDermott. He’s very naughty, funny, swears like a sailor but sings like an angel.

We’ve all kind of worked that out from his various TV appearances, as part of the anarchic group Doug Anthony All Stars, on Ten’s Good News Week or in his stand-up routines.

What is pleasantly surprising about McDermott is that he is an artist of many facets. Not only does he sing, he’s a poet and a painter too. Having presented the acclaimed The Dark Garden exhibition (under the name Young Master Paul) as part of the 2013 Adelaide Fringe Festival, McDermott has a long history with visual art, apparently only beginning his performing career to pay for the canvases he needed at art school.

The live cabaret show with the same name as his art exhibition is dark and solemn and just a little bit “emo”. Standing in front of a huge reprint of his art that is filled with ghoulish creatures and dark imagery, McDermott opened the show in a velvet (a la Willy Wonka) jacket, singing about songs for the dead. His rawness and connection with the subject matter was palpable and a fantastic reminder of the connection that cabaret can provide between performers and audience.

The mood was definitely sombre and throughout the performance it was plain that McDermott has endured some serious grief (and it feels pretty recent and raw). This mood infiltrated the lighting, the lyrics of each song (beautifully written with poetry-like structure) and even the “light” banter between songs. While many an audience member might be forgiven for thinking they had the wrong show, McDermott still delivered on the funnies too… always teetering over “the line” and always very black humour, but the laughter and comedic stylings of this iconic Australian comic were still there.

While every song performed was a piece of art unto itself, Her Agoraphobic Hands and Transcended were particularly moving and beautiful to behold as part of this multi-sensory event. The 4-piece band, led by Stu Hunter, was joined by the Adelaide Art Orchestra Quartet and each musician was a part of McDermott’s journey – when everyone played together it was magnificent, rich and beautiful.

To top the evening off, the audience of this particular performance was in for a very special treat. McDermott announced at the end that there was no encore as they have to “get the f*@ck out of here” but told everyone to meet him at the stage door – there on the steps at the Festival Centre, McDermott and his band sang 2 more songs while the lucky few crowded in to avoid trucks loading in the docks. It was acoustic, fun and a real magic moment of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Hayley Horton

Hayley was an arts worker in South Australia for twelve years working freelance for small to medium clients as well as for companies such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Theatre Company SA, Urban Myth Theatre of Youth and the Australia Business Arts Foundation. As part of her freelance work, Hayley founded the ATG Curtain Call Awards (which is now an annual gala event), co-produced three 24 Hour Show charity fundraiser events, has judged for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and reviewed for Aussie Theatre and the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Hayley now runs a boutique events and arts management business, Footlight Events and in her spare time, is involved with Adelaide’s amateur theatre community as a producer, performer and director.

Hayley Horton

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