The humble bottle of wine. Always waiting for you at the bottle shop. Always there no matter what your mood. Always your friend. And sometimes your worst enemy. It gives you courage, it gives you pause. It gives you a wicked hangover. It even gives you the basis for an hour long cabaret show exploring all of the above!
What Natasha York gives you is a boisterous performance with a voice as big as her bedraggled hair. That voice is put through its paces with a diverse range of songs all of which focus on her love affair with wine. Jamie Burgess is an excellent accompanist on piano who also supplies smooth vocal stylings and the occasional admonishment when York’s enthusiasm needs reining in.
And that’s an aspect I really enjoyed. York isn’t afraid to throw caution to the wind and give a full-throated performance here. Her onstage persona is larger than life and this works well given the material. For example, I never knew the things one could conceal in a little black dress including a small bottle of wine!
Indeed wine is scattered around the sumptuous performance space Downstairs at the Maj including a prop bottle… whatever the hell that may be. The opening of that bottle was done in flamboyant style as was the comic touch in its consumption.
Lyrics to well known songs are altered to incorporate a viticultural bent; bad puns are thrown around like disused wine casks; and amusing tales are shared with gusto. One particular thread throughout the evening involved York’s musical theatre background which rang utterly true given this town has a little place called WAAPA. From the pitfalls of craving sex with ‘Music Theatre Boys’ to being an entertainer at kids’ parties to the obligatory karaoke sessions, this was hilariously accurate. There was even some audience participation as York revelled in mock inebriated antics.
The most telling moments though are when she changes gear and allows moments of genuine self-reflection and regret. These are amplified by almost mournful versions of a Carole King classic and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.
Strip away all the attitude and bluster and you’re left with York’s voice which is a powerful instrument that effortlessly filled the space. When she cuts loose on a song like Feeling Good it’s a joy to hear. Yes, she’s humorously playful with her vocal ability particularly when dropping down to the lower registers but it’s done with great style and confidence.
This was an enjoyable evening of great songs warped for comic effect and a ballsy performance that was funny and in your face but with a touch of emotional truth that will resonate.
These Things Take Wine is on at the gloriously air-conditioned space Downstairs at the Maj until 13 February.