Leave it to Justin Vivian Bond to create a cabaret act that breaks all the rules, but is still hilariously entertaining, wildly imaginative and vividly expressive. I am always berating cabaret performers that they should not lean too heavily on the ballads, and limit the length of their shows. I stand by that, with one adjustment – if you are Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, you just pay me no mind.
Because v’s acidly funny stream of consciousness patter takes the place of uptempo numbers, and v’s fire and brimstone take on torch singing renders even the most maudlin ballad a thrilling study in the real oddities and edges of human experience. Not that Justin ever picks anything to sing that is straightforwardly maudlin – v’s taste in songs is impeccable, approaching them with the touch of a very careful curator. A curator, that is, who finds what is most explosive in the art they’re presenting, and then promptly detonates it.
V’s own compositions (which name-check Jean Genet as well as other influences such as English occultist Aleister Crowley) are generally in a joyfully organic vein that owes something to v’s Radical Faerie connections, and are indeed highlights of the show. This particular cabaret act is called “Silver Wells”, based on the newly released album of the same name, inspired by Joan Didion’s 1970 novel Play It As It Lays (Silver Wells is the heroine’s desolate hometown).
In the show, Bond reflects on the book’s themes of nihilism and fragmented identity, and the act gets much of its humor from looking at society from a perspective that is simultaneously inside and outside, much like Genet and Joni Mitchell, heroes that I personally share with v. We also share an affinity for Tennessee Williams – Bond has an ambition to play Blanche du Bois, which I would love to see. I think this may be the longest cabaret act I’ve ever seen, but I hardly felt it. Highly recommended – only one performance left!
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.