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Review: Kim David Smith - Morphium Kabarett

Cabaret Festival

A Saturday matinee in the Magic Mirrors Speigeltent, amid the hordes of Port Power supporters preparing for battle across the banks of the Torrens, seemed a less-than-ideal setting for this decadent and erotic performance.

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After an overture by Spoliansky (which gives the show its title) by pianist and director Amanda Hodder and bassist Alana Dawes, Kim David Smith – complete with top hat, tails and the highest heels – transports the audience to late-night cabaret mode, slinking through the room gently caressing shoulders. The low reverberating cello of Dawes sets a foreboding, uneasy atmosphere.

Morphium Kabarett pays homage to the European cabaret scene of the 1920s and ’30s with songs in German, English and French. The music of Piaf, Dietrich, Hollaender, Weill and the Supremes is dramatically and theatrically performed in subtle medleys, with Smith seamlessly changing pace, emotion and language.

The Dietrich standard “Illusions” and an anguished version of “Keep Me Hanging On” are highlights.

Smith’s voice is pure; his high notes sweet, fragile and breathtaking. His physical presence is chiselled – jacket off with leather straps, collar and cummerbund. He mesmerises the audience with every note, word and gesture, while lingering finishes leave us unsure when to clap – a point of amusement.

Thrills and erotic yearnings and inevitable doom are the dominant themes – “I belong to myself”, “set me free why don’t you babe”, in the end “it’s about you”. The musicians set the changes and contrasts of mood beautifully.

Songs about being a vamp, special girlfriends (in a duet with Hodder), and being in a dangerous relationship with Dracula-la-la-la are hilarious interludes.

A native of country Victoria, Smith resides in New York City, where he has performed Morphium Kabarett as well as cabaret shows Stargazing and Nova Noir. In 2016 he earned praise for his role as emcee in Hunter Foster’s production of Cabaret at the Cape Playhouse. Morphium Kabarett conjures memories of that movie with its German flavour and Smith’s androgynous presence. Smith is also a member of the Kabarett Kollektif, a troupe of New York-based artists dedicated to preserving the tradition of European cabaret.

Kim David Smith has been a regular performer at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Morphium Kabarett is a delicious offering that transports you to another time, another consciousness … and we didn’t hear the footy once.

See more Adelaide Cabaret Festival reviews and previews here.

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