Thursday, 22 August 2019

How I Met My Dead Husband - Cabaret Review

What: How I Met My Dead Husband
When: 24 August - 7 September 2019
Where: Bluestone Church Arts Space
Written by: Lansy Feng
Directed by: Belinda Campbell
Performed by: Simone Cremona, Lansy Feng, and Lauren Kaye
Set by: Abbey Stanway
Costumes by: Georgina Hanley
Lighting by: Jennifer Piper
Stage Managed by: Henry O'Brien
Lansy Feng - Photo by Jack Dixon-Gunn
A love story spanning lifetimes, How I Met My Dead Husband is as funny as it is heartbreaking. Lansy Feng brings her soul to the stage in this surprising tale of star crossed lovers being presented by Wit Inc at the Bluestone Church Arts Space for the next fortnight before a short return season at The Bowery Theatre.

Australians are taking a moment to search back through their cultural heritage and share their stories and for Feng that means exploring her Taiwanese background. Exploring the Buddhist concept of reincarnation and the role of destiny in determining our lives, Feng tells us the story of Chuen-Jiau.

Four lives ago, Buddha made a boo-boo and forgot to wipe her memories before bringing her back into the world in her new body. For some reason Chuen-Jiau seems to have slipped off the mind wipe slate completely and we meet her in her fourth incarnation with full and complete memories of all that has gone before. Yep, it is as painful as you can imagine including being 'pooped out' at birth, being a grown up in a child's body, and spending all of these lives searching for your lost love. "What the fuck, man?"

Despite the great sorrow and tragedy underlying the ideas of How I Met My Dead Husband, Feng has a wry sense of humour and a wonderful comic timing which fill the hour full of hilariously unexpected perspectives. Her incredibly mobile face has an anime effect and Feng's diminutive stature and delicate features and aura are belied by a soulful contralto voice which will shock you to the core.

As Feng unravels her four lives and the meeting and losing of her love along the way of each of them, the journey is peppered with a perfect blend of Nina Simone and Edith Piaf amongst others. Rarely do you hear a singer who really taps into the soulfulness these artists delivered, but Feng brings that and more with the slightest touch of Asian tuning which enhances rather than detracts from this cultural intermingling.

Perhaps my favourite moment was when Feng sang in her native Mandarin though. A gentleness emerges in her voice as she sings the ballad 'Longing For The Spring Breeze'.

My favourite story has to be the French experience. I don't know if it's child abuse to name your newborn Croissant but Feng provides a range of handy hints and tips on how to pretend you speak French to natives without knowing any of the language.

The first iteration of How I Met My Dead Husband in 2018 was more of a mystery thriller, but Campbell has worked with Feng to lean into the beauty and instead we have an hour long love story which is so much better than Shakespeare's star-crossed tragedy. The coffin is still the centrepiece but Stanway has amped it all up for this production with a stunning tiled floor, a shrine and a silhouette light box which is some sort of combination of pani slide and animation slides.

The cut-outs for each frame as they build the texture to match the story is an act of delicacy and grace we really only ever see in Asian cultures. Perhaps my one comment would be the husbands photo and this light box need to swap places so that Feng is framed by these images rather than being upstaged by the photo. Piper's lighting concepts and skills are really developing and How I Met My Dead Husband is cleverly and sensitively handled.

Whilst I can't imagine a fate more horrible than the one Chuen-Jiau has been forced to live through, the Gods do take pity on her - sort of - and for those who love the concept of a 'true love' this is the show for you! A stunning combination of surreal beauty and earthy reality, How I Met My Dead Husband is a top rate cabaret and shouldn't be missed.

4 Stars

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