Descending the creaking wooden staircase and entering the cavernous and comfortable space of 45 Downstairs immediately pushes aside all sense of theatrical pretension. The stage is sparse, the seating arranged around tables. The whole space seems like a set piece, a gentle mockery of a cabaret club.
In many ways, Yana Alana’s Between the Cracks is a gentle mockery of cabaret. Yana Alana, a character of Sarah Ward’s creation, is a classic diva, a self centred sensationalist whirling her way through show business. It is a familiar and funny archetype, stemming from the All About Eve era of highly strung actresses and adoring audiences. The show maps the return, on-stage breakdown and redemption of Yana Alana, all performed by Ward with a meta wink. Between the Cracks pokes at the wall beyond the fourth wall. Yana Alana as a character is contained but Ward is still present, wielding herself and her creation through the motions and music in a way that is both hilarious and honest.
It helps that Ward can sing, and sing wonderfully. Her voice is malleable, allowing her to imbue Yana Alana with a pitch perfect renditions of the cabaret sound while also using Yana Alana’s vocal shifts to denote story and personality. The brevity of the show helps keep the pace lively and the structure fresh. The show is light hearted and funny, with a successful combination of escalating gags, visual humour and musical jokes – even the puns are giggle worthy.
Beyond the playful stylistic love letter to cabaret, Between the Cracks also incorporates key themes of the performance genre: queerness and mental instability. Again, they are good-natured references, but there is something striking and normalising behind the humour they are delivered with. Despite her caricatured diva antics, Yana Alana comes off as an oddly likeable version of our own flaws.
Worth noting is Louise Goh, Yana Alana’s accompanist. Her role in the comedy and story of the show aside, Goh’s skill as a musician completes the atmosphere and emotionality of Between the Cracks.
The show is billed as “a night of blues, burlesque and blame”, a tagline that feels very tongue in cheek. It is not a surprise Between the Cracks sold out at last year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival, nor that the production has won two 2014 Green Room Awards (Best Production & Best Artiste) and a 2014 Helpmann Award (Best Cabaret Performer).
Between the Cracks runs from the 16th to the 21st of December at 45 Downstairs, Flinders Lane. Tickets are $42, $35 concession or $45 for table seating. The show starts at 7:30pm Tuesday – Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. It runs for 55 minutes with no interval. For more information and tickets, visit www.fortyfivedownstairs.com
Between the Cracks contains nudity, swearing and adult themes. It is not recommended for audiences under the age of 18.