Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 21 Jun 2018

Review by Jamie Wright

Adelaide-based theatre company Slingsby has a history of producing a very distinct kind of densely-packed, engaging, immersive theatre, and "Songs for Those Who've Come Across the Seas" is no exception – though here they're coming at it from a slightly different angle. Music – usually live – has always played a pivotal role (at least in all of the productions I've been fortunate enough to see) while in this piece it's music first and foremost with the more visual, theatrical elements playing a supporting role.

Beginning amongst the pages of a child's picture book, we follow the story of an island – from its birth in the volcanic undersea, to how the plants and birds and animals and people find their way to its shores. The show has a distinct feel of a concert version of a 1970s-era concept album – the original songs include a melange of genres, but there are strong folk (thanks to the banjo, piano accordion and woodwind) and prog rock (various guitars, keyboards, drums and electronica) influences. But this show is not just about the music – there are amazing animated sequences (another Slingsby standard) projected onto a cloth backdrop behind the musicians. The combination is mesmerising.

Out front, a dynamic Cameron Goodall narrates (briefly), plays various instruments and sings; he demonstrates a huge range as the musical styles constantly change, with the highlight a very Nick Cave-esque number about predators and the food chain – though the witty and hilarious dung beetle song isn't far behind. But it's far from a solo performance; accompanying him on a constantly changing array of instruments are Leah Flanagan (who also provides vocals on many of the songs), Quincy Grant, Gareth Chin and Satomi Ohnishi.

Quite unlike anything else on offer at this year's Cabaret Festival, this is a stunning production that will echo long after the performance ends. A two-night run of something this good is bordering on criminal; here's hoping Andy Packer and co. will consent to grace an Adelaide stage with a return season sometime soon.