Mother Archer’s Cabaret for Dark Times successfully performed in Hobart at Ten Days on the Island and at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Both seasons had multiple COVID rule complications but as Peter Wilson’s (see below) shows, none of that mattered in the end. The performance at Melbourne Recital Centre, originally booked for June 23rd was postponed due to Melbourne Lockdown IV to July 21st and then postponed again to August 16th – so hope to see you there!
In the meantime, Rouseabout Records (the Undercover label) continues to re- release Robyn’s back catalogue. In June we saw The Ladies’ Choice and Mrs Bottle’s Burp available again through portals like Spotify, and now we’re happy to say that the next three will also soon be available – The Wild Girl in the Heart ( Robyn’s settings of Australian poets for her second album), Tonight Lola Blau ( from her much-loved one-woman show) and the wild double album Rough as Guts featuring the late great Louis McManus, will be ready in August/September. Robyn is now working on Robyn Archer: an Australian Songbook which will premiere for Queensland Theatre in Brisbane, November.
Passion courses through Robyn Archer’s songlist. With her latest show, Archer is in her element. Mother Archer’s Cabaret for Dark Times gives a nod to the current pandemic with her rendition of Aristide Bruant’s nineteenth century song about the cholera epidemic. With songs ranging back to Orlando Gibbons’ The Silver Swan, written in the seventeenth century and forward to Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, Marlene Dietrich, Brother Can you Spare a Dime from the Great American Songbook and Noel Coward’s revue song There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner, Archer reaches into the dark corners of our psyche and the society that spawns the struggles against poverty, misery, exploitation and corrupt power. Opening with the Alabama Song from The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny, Archer demonstrates her brilliant grasp of phrasing and her empathy for soldiers drowning their fears in whisky. Not only does she rightfully claim her status as a wonderful exponent of the songs of Brecht and Weill, but also demonstrates a diversity that has established her as a major voice for the politically oppressed and the socially disadvantaged. At a time of fear and financial collapse, Mother Archer’s Cabaret for Dark Times offers a panacea for survival and a defiance against the ravages of liquor, death, disadvantage and the relentless advance of the ageing years.
Archer’s wide-ranging repertoire is a homage to life. Interspersed with the poetry of Bertolt Brecht, her songs storm against the injustices in What Keeps Mankind Alive or mock the evils of liquor espoused by noen other than W.C. Fields. In soulful voice, Archer reminds us that the pain of love lasts lifelong in Plaisir d’Amour. We are warned that ‘there are dark clouds hurtling through the sky” in Noel Coward’s postwar patter There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner that makes fun of postwar Britons’ propensity to moan.
With accordionist and long time collaborator George Butrumlis and pianist Gareth Chin, who stepped in two days earlier to brilliantly replace Archer’s other close accompanist Michael Morley, Archer has put together a show that showcases her enormous talent as chanteuse and political and social commentator. The tragedy of oppression and manipulation is tempered with comedy and human defence against the hard times that reminds us, like Archer, not to take oneself too seriously, but to always challenge and defy the forces of injustice. She can still belt out a tune to right the wrongs, jest at Democracy’s collapse at the Dismissal, feel for the battlers on the poverty lines and revel in the absurdity of the human condition.
On the Dunstan Playhouse stage… Archer stands and sings in a spirit of reconciliation for all humanity. Her natural assurance, sincerity and humanity asserts her place as committed advocate for the underprivileged, a celebrated chanteuse with passion and humour, and a national treasure.
Robyn Archer AO is a singer, performer, writer, artistic director and public advocate of the Arts.
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Robyn has contributed to three podcasts by the Australian Book Review of Poetry for Troubled Times. Robyn leads off with a Brecht poem and then it’s a fabulous ride with terrific poetry and interesting readers. Her article On living in a time of Covid-19 is also a great read.