Black Box Theatre - Adelaide Botanic Garden
Until 09 Mar 2020

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Delia Olam is a warm and tender performer, and this one-woman cabaret show showcases her exquisite musicality and sparkling, gentle stage presence. Obstensibly about the daughter Joni Mitchell gave up for adoption in 1965, Olam uses this idea to talk mostly about her own experience of motherhood, and how she has balanced that with living a creative life. Throughout the course of the show, Olam gives a loose account of Mitchell’s career, while making connections to her own journey. These links are fairly tenuous, and say more about the affinity Olam clearly has with Mitchell’s music than any truly obvious similarities in their stories.

Her affection for her subject is clear, and “Joni Mitchell’s Daughter” serves as an intimate and personal love letter to her inspiration and the artistic life. The central narrative does lack some cohesion, with the core ideas not always coming through as powerfully as they should. The pieces often feel disconnected, without a strong enough thematic drive keeping it all together, preventing it from being as poignant as it wants to be. The absolute highlights are Olam’s renditions of Mitchell’s songs, which she delivers with utter sincerity and a soaring, soulful voice. These moments are enhanced beautifully by the lighting design, which never fails to capture the energy and emotion of the number. It’s also delightful when Olam slips into Mitchell’s persona, trying to make sense of this often inscrutable woman and her complex relationship to her art and career.

Fans of Joni Mitchell will find a lot to love about this show, as it pays beautiful tribute to her talent, and there is also a lot here that will resonate with mothers. If you are neither of these things, you may find it difficult to find a point of connection. Olam’s joyful and affectionate reflection on her relationship with her daughters will not be relatable to everyone, though it is always a delightful thing to hear someone share a story of their hope and happiness. It’s not that Olam takes an entirely rosy view of her circumstances; she acknowledges the feeling of having a divided heart, but ultimately comes to a balanced and peaceful state. I couldn’t help but wish for a deeper exploration of some of the more complex feelings behind this, and more time spent with Joni Mitchell herself, but “Joni Mitchell’s Daughter” is a charming ode to both music and motherhood, with some truly extraordinary talent on display.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)