Printable CopyEARNEST & WILDE
La Bohème
Until 01 Mar 2018

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Earnest & Wilde are a male/female musical comedy duo from the UK who have brought their most first full-length show to Adelaide, the premise of which is a retelling of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, punctuated by soulful arrangements of modern pop songs. There’s a version of this idea that works as a show; unfortunately, this is not it.

The story of Franz Ferdinand is indeed a fascinating one, and Earnest and Wilde begin it by introducing the theme that even the smallest actions can have huge, unforeseen consequences. They don’t really do much with this concept though, rather than explicitly state it at the beginning and the end; instead, the show alternates between rambling lectures about the assassination, peppered with jokes that mostly fall flat, and jazz versions of love songs from the 90s. It is a funny premise, but the execution is inconsistent and messy. The connections between the songs and the story is tentative at best, and the music does very little to enhance the narrative. The choice of numbers also muddies who is supposed to be the target audience for this show, as the joke only works when the songs are instantly recognisable. Their version of “Numb” by Linkin Park, for example, did not seem to be familiar to the crowd (and there was also something a little unsettling about hearing Chester Bennington’s words come out of a cheery cabaret singer.)

The performers are to be commended for their enthusiasm and ambition, and there is a genuine attempt at creating a classic comedic banter between the two characters they present – the nerdy, piano-playing history buff, and the exuberant, showy singer – but for the most part, it feels like they’re in two different shows. While he is subtle and understated, she is over the top and vivacious. Again, this dynamic could easily be mined for comedy, but it comes across as tonally inconsistent. There’s a lack of polish in their monologues, which causes the historical information to become unwieldy and hard to follow. Some of the jokes are clever, particularly ones that rely on subtlety, but many are overplayed and hammy. The transitions into the numbers are clunky, weighed down by their idea that the lyrics come from old diaries and letters. This is an unnecessary touch, and the show would be served better by seamlessly incorporating the songs into their lectures.

The arrangements are expertly put together, and the musicality of the show in general shows considerable talent, particularly in the piano playing. It’s the choice of numbers that feels strange, and the lyrics often become indecipherable in the singer’s nasal twang.

Earnest & Wilde’s passion and joy for this project is undeniable, and as they develop as performers, hopefully they will build on more of what works about them.

And if you’re a history buff who loves cabaret and the song “Ignition” by R. Kelly, this just might be the show for you.

Rating 2 stars (out of 5)