Duets with Myself

Duets with Myself
Written & performed by Charlotte Kerr. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne CBD. 27 March – 1 April 2018.

At the start of her show – and there’s some uncertainty that the show has started – Charlotte Kerr, seated behind her keyboard, thanks the audience for coming to ‘this trial’.  Oh, we think, it’s that kind of show – self-reflexive, pretending that it’s a ‘work in progress’ - a test of audience response to the material.  But maybe not. 

As the show proceeds, we see that Ms Kerr either is or is pretending very convincingly to be awkward, self-conscious and embarrassed.  The transitions from one item to another are bumpy and arbitrary.  The material is distinctly uneven, some of it very good (especially when she sings), but mostly under-written and (deliberately?) under-rehearsed.  Her movements around the tiny Butterfly Club stage are painful to watch.  At one point, she dons a tracksuit emblazoned with the announcement ‘I’ve given up’.  How are we meant to take this?  She then reads out a list of her ‘self-care’ strategies – which are mostly bizarre and nonsensical – and descends into the audience to ask us what we do about self-care.  After a couple of lame answers from us (we’re still puzzling over her list), she gives up, muttering something like, ‘Well, that was my audience interaction segment …’  I.e. that didn’t work – either.

This is all most unfortunate.  Ms Kerr is definitely selling herself short – if not deliberately self-sabotaging.  if you go online and check her award winning Short & Sweet cabaret, with Evan Kerr, you’ll see a quite different and confident, accomplished woman.  Here, she’s still an attractive performer who sings beautifully – and with confidence, and with a considerable range, from brassy pop style to intimate, confiding Blossom Dearie type confessions.  Her songs, written by her, are sharp and witty – although marred by not so good mike technique so that half the lyric gets lost.  Likewise, her acidic interpolations into songs written by other people.  And the central idea – of a duet with oneself – is a good one, even if sadly under-developed.  She explores the concept by switching voices and personas through several songs and venturing into the surreal by telephoning herself – and being told off and rejected by herself.  This would be brilliant if the two Charlotte Kerrs revealed here were more evident through the rest of the show.  But the telephone calls are just one more item before she picks up a ukulele or whatever.

If what we saw was a trial, I do hope Ms Kerr was taking notes of what worked – about a third of the show – and what didn’t, and why.  As it stands, inviting folks to come see this half-baked show – and pay to do so – is pretty cheeky and, paradoxically, more confident than the persona she projects.  Ms Kerr, we know you can do better than this!

Michael Brindley

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