Yana Alana’s hilarious Between the Cracks cabaret confronts taboo issues
The nudity is not the hardest part. For Sarah Ward, the cabaret actor whose alter ego Yana Alana is an all-singing all-dancing diva in Between the Cracks, the hardest part is actually getting into her costume: blue skin paint.
“The most demanding part of the show is getting it on and getting it off,” said Ward explaining it takes over two hours for her partner Bec Matthews to get the paint onto every inch of skin.
“It makes it easier knowing she’s the one to paint me up but it’s still a vulnerable thing. You can’t sit down for those two hours, people come in an out of the dressing room, it’s not easy,” said the Sydney-trained actor.
“But on the other hand it does help. If I wasn’t painting up I wouldn’t be emotionally preparing enough. It’s a big ask to go out there night after night and carry that show – it’s me and my pianist Louise Goh out there.”
Ward’s alter ego is not only nude, but exposing difficult issues such asmental health and sexuality, the things Ward says she is unable to say in her own skin.
“The blue is very literal, it’s there to reference Yana’s depression. She’s naked and she’s exposed and she’s singing and having tantrums and that’s for a good reason. To sum up the meaning of the show: your dysfunction and your flaws and those things that make your life difficult; that’s what makes you unique and beautiful.”
It’s an openness and acceptance that comes from the fact Ward created Yana Alana for a queer club night called Drag Kings.
“I think in Melbourne there are more women in my audiences purely because that lesbian fan base has always been really supportive. On top of that I did a lot of work with the women’s circus and that’s where Yana came into her own,” she said.
“I like working with women, I like being active about that. It’s one of my aims to employ women and just keep reminding the industry, ‘hey, look at these talented women that want work’.”
However, Ward maintained there’s plenty in her character for men. She has just come back from a season of hershow in Darwin, where nudity suits the weather and where just as many men came to the outdoor theatre as women.
“Men laugh the loudest,” said Ward. “Sometimes women need to be quiet for a moment to digest what’s happening, the fact they are seeing their own body on stage or their own story being sung back at them.”