And Then You Go – The Vali Myers Project  is the latest creation of award-winning musical director, composer, cabaret artist, theatre-maker and multi-instrumentalist Victoria Falconer. Local audiences will have seen Falconer perform in Adelaide Fringe and Festival shows, including the 2021 Slingsby and State Theatre Company co-production The Boy Who Talked To Dogs which will later this year tour to regional SA.

Many years ago, Falconer became fascinated with Australian artist Vali Myers and the fact that she remains overlooked despite serving as inspiration to a long list of well-known creatives over many decades.

Myers (1930-2003) lived life exactly as she pleased. Passionate about dancing and drawing since childhood, she set sail for Europe at the age of 19 – an age when young Australian women were expected to fit in with the societal expectations of marriage and motherhood. That was not the life for Myers; instead she embraced a vagabond existence on the streets of Paris, mixing with the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Tennessee Williams and Jean Genet.

In the late 1950s, after travels through Europe, Myers made a home deep in a hidden valley in Positano, Southern Italy. Here, she immersed herself in her art practice while caring for a growing menagerie of wildlife including owls, ravens and foxes – creatures she celebrated in bold tattoos on her face and hands. From the 1970s to the 1990s, trips abroad were an opportunity to sell her intricate drawings (painstakingly constructed in ink, watercolour and gold leaf) and mix with artists, musicians and writers. Her last years were spent between Positano and a studio in Melbourne, where she finally found an audience for her work in the land of her birth.

Falconer created And Then You Go with the assistance of funds received via the Frank Ford Commissioning Award, which commissions new South Australian cabaret works to be performed by local artists at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

The ensemble cast summons impressions of Myers’ wild life through movement, dance, song, circus, puppetry and richly coloured lighting effects. On a large white fabric backdrop, animated projections of her art and writing provide context for elements of the on-stage action, and at times we hear her voice via short snippets of audio recordings.

Singer and dancer Parvyn Kaur Singh is part of the multi-disciplinary cast of And Then You Go. Photo: Claudio Raschella

Five of the performers (including Falconer) portray Myers – each wearing layers of exotic fabric, facial tattoos and a mass of tangled red hair – in gloriously over-the-top costuming that pays homage to the artist’s distinctive style.

And Then You Go features original music and songs with styles swirling through jazz, rock and psychedelia. Some of the quieter compositions and those with singing in unison are particularly effective at invoking the depths of the artist’s struggles.

The two-level stage area is set with an array of musical instruments ranging from keyboards, violin, double bass and accordion, to percussion items such as the cuíca, güiro, shekere and kalimba. With nine performers on stage at all times, there is a lot to look at, but (apart from a few scenes where there is a bit too much happening) this contributes to the multi-layered journey across time and locations.

Audience members already familiar with the story of Vali Myers might connect more easily with the show than those who haven’t yet been introduced to her work. To help with this, there’s a small exhibition wall in the Space Theatre foyer – taking time to visit this before taking a seat will enhance the experience.

And Then You Go is an unpredictable, uncategorisable, sometimes raw and often hauntingly beautiful celebration of a life lived without compromise. If you’re ready for a trip to parts unknown, this is the show for you.

And Then You Go – The Vali Myers Project is being performed at the Space Theatre until June 25 as part of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

See all InReview’s coverage of the 2022 Cabaret Festival here.

 

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.