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Not Quite Cabaret, Not Quite Theatre


Bonita Brisker's Bonita & Billie

The show begins with a series of photographs of Billie Holiday projected onto a screen, Bonita Brisker lying on sheets of black satin with white flowers in her hair. Then she wakes up. Late for her concert she dashes around her dressing room preparing to go onstage. She is breathing heavily, seemingly confused – a scene which is far too long and becomes a little uncomfortable. She then appears in concert, lit up on another part of the stage. These cabaret-style sections are the strongest part of the show. Brisker has a beautiful voice and does a good job of tackling Holiday’s range. She is pleasant enough and treats the audience like her dearest friends, although the acting is a little muted. This becomes very evident in the ‘backstage’ sections of the show, where Holiday has supposedly gone offstage and we see the unravelling of her life more intimately. Unfortunately there is little to connect with here, the script unclear, sorely lacking in drama and emotive power. Even when Holiday is about to relapse into her drug habit, needle poised above her arm, I feel nothing. Overall, the structure of the piece is a bit peculiar and lacks in momentum. There is no build to the big moment so it feels completely out of the blue. It could have been a nice little rendition of Billie Holiday’s hits with nothing else going on, but this cabaret’s foray into drama is more than a little disappointing.

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