All posts in “Reviews”

Yana Alana Covered: Melbourne Observer

Beth Klein’s Review 

Yana Alana’s Melbourne Fringe offering was a hilarious romp featuring the cabaret diva like you’ve never seen her before.

Those familiar with Yana (aka Sarah Ward) may have been a little surprised by Yana Alana Covered, not just by the fact that she was fully clothed (most of the time), but by her mission – not to utter a single original word or express an original idea or sing an original song – thankfully she wasn’t able to achieve this all the time and snippets of the manic and outlandish ‘real’ Yana were revealed.

It’s no wonder that Yana Alana has won a Helpmann Award and eight Green Room Awards – she is a diva on steroids. Her incredible and powerful voice has a seemingly endless range and ability.

The show opened with a powerful and dramatic version of Propellerheads History Repeating (originally featuring Shirley Bassey). Other songs included Joy Division’s (appropriately named) She’s Lost Control, the Animals’ Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and a haunting arrangement of the Beatle’s Strawberry Fields. Her attempt to perform modern pop songs by Taylor Swift and Beyonce were hilariously cut short.

Dramatically spoken song lyrics delivered like conversations or rants provided great laughs between songs and the odd costume change.

Her accompanists The Paranas — versatile percussionist Bec Mathews and Louise Goh on keyboards, piano accordion and guitar — were much more than musicians, antagonists and stage-hands.

Yana Alana is without a doubt the first lady of cabaret. Outlandish, bawdy and slightly unhinged, she is worthy of cult status.

Yana’s amazing hour of stimulating entertainment was performed at the Lithuanian Club for a limited season.

Yana Alana Covered: Planet Arts ★★★★★


Whatever you think a cabaret is, don’t go to Yana Alana expecting to see that.  My first impression of the Lithuanian Club was that it smelled like my grandma’s house.   In general, the venue defied all that makes cabaret what it is – the high ceiling and multi level seating took away from the intimacy, and there was not a drop of whisky too be seen (but actually, where was the bar?).  But did Yana Alana pretend not to notice? Not a chance – “They really need to do something with these curtains”, she protested about the mustard drapes framing the stage limply.

The whole show itself showed a cheeky disregard for all the norms of cabaret.  If you expected Yana Alana to strut around stage in Dita Von Teese lingerie, think again.  Despite costumes featuring heavily, Yana Alana Covered was a show about the woman herself – the flouncy outfits acted as clever props, with Yana Alana well and truly owning them, rather than the other way around.

The show opened with a powerful rendition of Shirley Bassey’s ‘History Repeating’, complete with a projector screen showing political and pop culture footage.  Cue jokes about the Liberal Party, and the whole room was enamoured.  Equal parts razor sharp wit and self-deprecation flowed effortlessly throughout the performance, and by the end, I think everyone saw a little bit of Yana Alana in themselves.

The show consisted entirely of covers, however Yana Alana was the first to make jokes about selling out.  But a joke is about as far as it gets, as her rich voice and cheeky stage antics were enough to transform them entirely into her own.   Her backing band Tha Paranas, made up of multi-instrumentalists Bec Matthews and Louise Goh could have put on a pretty damn good show on their own, with stage banter almost (but not quite) matching that of the woman herself.  The three women were great foils for each other, and it was a joy to watch.

Covers included songs made famous by Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Scout Niblet and Gnarls Barkley, all of which were accompanied by a different outfit and another sassy side to Yana Alana.  The audience was in raptures at her rendition of the 1930s ‘If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It’, as she attempted to squeeze herself into cheap gym gear.  Smattered throughout the show were the zaniest quotes and lyrics from some of history’s biggest pop stars.  I wasn’t quite sure what the point was, but it provided some pretty hilarious filler between songs.  My appreciation shot through the (slightly moldy) roof when she completely shut down two of today’s most popular girl power anthems.  Trust me, she knows what she’s talking about (and has been around way longer than Katy Perry).

I don’t care who you are; but I promise you will love this show.  Take your take your dad, take your girlfriend, hell, take your grandma.  You don’t want to miss it.

Yana Alana Covered: The Age ★★★★1/2

Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead

Yana Alana’s many cult followers will know her latest show Covered is a cheeky reference to her last, Between the Cracks, a Helpmann Award-winning cabaret burlesque in which the voluptuous diva performed largely in the buff. This time she has clothes, more lightning costume changes than a Madonna concert, and every word of the show, she proudly declares, is written by someone else.

If you’re worried that Yana Alana has sold out to the mainstream by abandoning performance poetry and singing covers, fear not. Her song choice and vocal style remain completely her own, and the show quotes pop lyrics as kooky as any Yana could invent.

It opens with Shirley Bassey’s History Repeating, performed in Bond girl silhouette against a newsreel montage. (Yana’s creator Sarah Ward has pipes huge enough to effectively impersonate the Welsh songstress, and she gets back to Bassey with I, Who Have Nothing later on.)

Madcap clowning runs through numbers that range from the extremely famous to the obscure. One minute Yana will be crooning the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever under psychedelic lighting, the next Scout Niblett’s Dinosaur Egg with silly props, or the 1930s ditty If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It, as she squeezes herself into an outfit from Supré.

The musicians – Louise Goh on keyboard and Bec Matthews’ percussion – are terrific, and director Anni Davey​ brilliantly shapes the comic madness.

The audience was in hysterics. Don’t miss out.

Read more:

Between The Cracks: The Age ★★★★1/2

Cameron Woodhead

You’ve heard of clothes so tight they look painted on. And if you’re familiar with the outlandish talents of Yana Alana, you’ll know what’s coming next. Yes, the curvaceous diva, potty-mouthed performance poet and solipsist extraordinaire arrives on stage as a vision in blue – with a huge bouffant wig, a smattering of glitter and a skintight bodysuit literally painted on. Sarah Ward won a Helpmann Award (quite rightly) for Between the Cracks.

Yana Alana is one of the most totalising, larger-than-life stage creations to come out of Melbourne since Edna Everage, and the turn to burlesque suits her to a T.

The show opens with a witty, verbally inventive blues parody. Indeed, the state of Yana Alana’s mental health is a recurring motif (in a later song, we get a vocal exhibition of the diva on a psychoactive cocktail of prescription drugs) but her delicious satire also embraces her more traditional concerns. It wouldn’t be Yana without lashing of queerness, smut and self-regard.

There’s a smart, mordantly funny number about sexuality and identity being two separate categories, a backwards going forwards jazz standard on anal sex, and a jaunty (and decidedly political) ditty that dwells on how many public figures share Yana’s aversion to apology.

The rangy musical offerings display Ward’s vocal mastery, fully unleashed at the finale with a poignant and original ballad. She’s accompanied by the po-faced Louise Goh on piano, who keeps answering her mobile on stage in a running gag that leads, inevitably, to one of Yana’s fearful tantrums.

As well as the glorious singing, you get unladylike sight gags, kooky interpretive dance, and a snatch of Yana’s latest volume of performance poetry, Go F— Yourself.

Between the Cracks is a blast. Swift, irreverent, ridiculously entertaining cabaret, and a festive end to a strong year of performance at fortyfivedownstairs.

Tears Before Bedtime: Brisbane Times

Tae Baker

You never really know what you are going to experience at the Brisbane Festival. This is especially true with productions at Theatre Republic, which is exactly why I love the depth of our festival.

However I’ll freely admit that on a list of things I didn’t expect that evening, number one would have been spanking an over-the-top diva while in her bed.

Tears Before Bedtime is a cabaret production (a la art gallery exhibit) that takes place in the bedroom, and bed (!), of Yana Alana (star of La Soiree 2013). You aren’t just a voyeur here, you join her in her misery, delight, dissidence, and embrace of wickedness.

Yana Alana has a wonderful singing voice. She’s even a budding children’s author. Her gift of engaging her intimate group of “fans having a sleepover” was just brilliant… and her ribald jokes! One lady who had been so controlled totally lost it at one of these.

My face ached from smiling and laughing so much.

What exacerbated this delicious pain was how we were forbidden to laugh at one point. It was so hard to keep it contained.

Bec Beat from Circus Oz, Yana’s ever suffering friend, was a delight. She entertained us with shadow puppet theatre and background tunes, and also accidentally elbowed me in the face. Well I hope it was an accident, and she doesn’t do this to everyone. At least it wasn’t the reason my face ached, I swear. My advice to those who are lucky enough to have tickets to this sold out event: be ready for anything, go with it and know your Roses Chocolates in advance.

Tears Before Bedtime: ABC Arts

Alison Croggan

Yana Alana and Tha Parana’s Tears Before Bedtime had an audience of five, all of us dressed in pyjamas and bedsocks before being invited into cabaret performer Yana Alana’s bedroom. The diva herself is hidden under the covers, supposedly crying hysterically (it’s actually a recording), which permits us to explore the bedroom as an art installation. It’s clearly an emotional disaster area, with various plinths on which the remains of chocolate cake, sleeping pills and a Friend are all curatorially labelled. Then the covers are thrown off – “An audience!” and we are invited into bed with Yana Alana, who is having trouble getting to sleep. She offers us a chocolate, reads us a bedtime story (“The moral is, I’m going to kill Gina Rinehart”), sings, complains and plays us her version of a meditation tape, all with the musical and stage assistance of Tha Parana, before finally curling up (in this case, on my breast) and snoring peacefully.

This was beautifully detailed work, very funny and, in the end, surprisingly moving: intimate theatre in which the intimacy was actual.