Melbourne Fringe 2012

Parlour Games

0 Comments 09 October 2012

Blending Parisian jazz into the kind of classy, carefully wardrobed group that would give most folk bands a run for their money, Parlour Games proves pleasant and smooth entertainment for the night. Singer Biddy Frank guides the audience through the night’s repertoire, detailing her own travels and experiences with the music performed as a narrative to tie the work together.

The night opens with Frank, every bit the glamorous siren in her blue gown. She commands the stage with a learned presence, addressing the occupants of the chic-meets-Oriental restaurant Rice Queen’s floor like an old friend. Frank launches into the old jazz standard ‘Come Fly With Me’ without pause, setting the mood for the the smoky, soulful crooning to be expected. It’s not only jazz that the night provides, though: old and familiar tunes such as ‘Pure Imagination’ are executed masterfully by conductor Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer. A feisty, up-tempo Brazilian piece provides a nice change for both band and Frank alike. Seats closer to the stage should be advised: the chatter of patrons and waitstaff can drown out both the band and Frank, or block view of the stage and the elaborately dressed performers.

A combination of microphone issues and Frank’s tendency to lend extended pauses between vocals or disappear from the stage can also lead to confusion as to whether the song has properly finished. Nonetheless, the band shines on it’s own; the brief Argentinean tango performed is a highlight, as is the shifting of piano from simple and well-known Yankee Doodle tune to a more elaborate, interwoven introduction to another piece. A clear and understandable balance between which pieces and passages are instrumental-led and which vocal-led would assist in easing listeners through the night.

Frank is sublime in the numbers she’s clearly mastered, but stays within her comfort zone – a lack of variation in song choice means the charm of her voice is often lost. With time and an exploration of new technical heights, there’s the chance for this talented group to shine.

Parlour Games has finished its run at the Fringe Festival.

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