Last night was the world premiere of Victoria Falconer’s Frank Ford Commissioning Award-winning show And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) at Adelaide Cabaret Festival. An Australian who lived in post-war Paris and counted Jean Genet, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Django Reinhardt. and Tennessee Williams as friends would surely be someone that everyone would have heard of, right? Strangely no and Victoria Falconer’s show aims to educate but also inspire audiences to explore Vali Myers and her story more.
There’s plenty to look at before the show has even begun. Instruments in various places across the stage, and in front of the drum kit all sorts of bohemian paraphernalia. 5 women with red hair (Victoria Falconer, Erin Fowler, Jess Love, Parvyn Kaur Singh, and Ronnie Taheny), all representing Vali Myers, mingle with the crowd. A man with a tail (Will Spartalis), in the role of Vali’s beloved pet fox, jumps between empty chairs in the audience seating quite happy to have pats. A slender dog like a greyhound is getting cuddles from one of the Valis on stage.
And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) is an audio-visual feast. While stories are told or songs are performed, images of Vali Myer’s many paintings, drawings and diary entries are projected onto the back of the stage. At times the words in these diary entries parallel the lyrics of the song being performed. It’s difficult to define the style of Vali Myer’s works and perhaps that is so very characteristic of Vali Myers herself. There are animals in many of her works and perhaps even an Indian-like feel to the way the people and animals are painted.
There is audience participation but it is brief. Selected audience members are handed wigs, moustaches or glasses to take on the personas of Blondie, Dali and Andy Warhol. Their participation is brief and they are not required to do much at all – so there’s no near to fear sitting in the front row or the chairs on stage for And then you go (The Vali Myers Project). The wider audience is encouraged to dance in their seats by waving their hands in the air taking us into the world of Vali’s wild parties.
And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) and her cast of Valis, all with their own musical instruments, allow us to get to know a little more about this woman so few know about. Each takes it in turns telling us about a snippet of Vali’s life or about Vali herself – one for example tells us about dancing being a compulsion. Another tells us about migrating from café to café in Paris, whiling the hours away purely because they “didn’t have anywhere else to go”.
Quotes from Vali are immortalised in songs written by the extremely talented Victoria Falconer, whose baby And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) is. The performance is heavily tilted towards a musical one with a dazzling array of instruments, both the usual keyboard, double bass, and various guitars but also percussion ones not often seen. Of course, a show partially set in Paris needs an accordion as well which was also present. I don’t think Victoria Falconer’s famed musical saw made an appearance this time though!
The music styles differ throughout the show from island rumba/salsa sorts of beats to middle Eastern sounding music that would be perfectly at home at WOMAD festival in Adelaide in March. The Valis perform a song together with their various instruments and voices in perfect harmony. In addition to the 5 Valis who each play an instrument in the show, there are Dylan Marshall on various guitars and Flik Freeman on bass and percussion at the back of the stage, and Jarrad Payne on drums rounding it out.
The use of props was quite ingenious. A red rope held at each end by different Valis is transformed into a ballet pole against which other Valis would do their ballet movements. That same red rope was used in a V formation to create the appearance of a boat on which the Valis swayed from side to side. The rope was used a third time, this time for the aerial performance by Jess Love, who climbed the rope by her feet while hanging upside down.
The aerial performance was not the usual graceful, peaceful one but rather one in which a frenzied woman struggled to climb higher and higher when the rope was being lowered. Instead of the aerial performances to which we might be accustomed, this one featured a breathless, topless woman, climbing and climbing until she eventually collapses in exhaustion. We’re not sure whether this is meant to be representative or inspired by Vali’s compulsion to dance. It was the only solo performance involving a circus skill. There’s no doubting the skill of Jess Love but It seemed slightly out of place in a show which was far more of the singing, story-telling, instrumental realm.
We are sent on our way from And then you go (The Vali Myers Project) with the words of Vali Myers who said that was very interested in what she didn’t know and who said her thing was not knowing. Perhaps this is an encouragement for many in the audience to discover what they don’t know about this Australian woman who merits being more well-known.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival
KEY INFO FOR AND THEN YOU GO (THE VALI MYERS PROJECT)
WHAT: And then you go (The Vali Myers Project)
WHEN: Only one show remains, tonight, Saturday 25 June at 9pm
WHERE: Space Theatre, Adelaide
HOW: Purchase your tickets via this link: https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/the-vali-myers-project/
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices (exclusive of booking fee) are as follows:
- Premium Adult $59
- A Reserve Adult $49
- A Reserve Under 30 $30
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