Cabaret Review: Jacqui Dark is Alive and Well and Living In Newtown

Jacqui Dark is Alive and Well and Living In Newtown/Jacqui Dark/Daryl Wallis

Camelot Lounge, Marrickville,

22 April, 2021

The chameleon that is Jacqui Dark, the versatile chanteuse, star of opera, cabaret and music theatre, played her solo show Jacqui Dark is Alive and Well and Living In Newtown to a spell-bound audience.

Taking its title from the 1968 off-Broadway production, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and later released as a film adaptation in 1975, this was a show full of raw emotion – passion, tears, laughter and irreverence. Accompanied by pianist and arranger Daryl Wallis in a confrontingly intimate setting, the duo performed 13 songs by the Belgian singer-songwriter. Sung mostly in English, translated from the French, Dark’s renditions lost little of their original power. Brel was known for his unashamed display of intense emotion, quite at odds with traditional French restraint. The songs selected by Dark, told of loneliness, death, betrayal, friendship, aging and love, drawing on Dark’s own life experiences – her youth in Ballarat, her experience of being a parent, her dates.

Sung with impeccable diction, there was no need for translations or text. The emotional narrative was etched on her face as Dark’s powerful voice sang the words. Dispensing with an overall narrative, these were a collection of experiences which one needed to have known to be able to express in song. Dark laughed, she cried, she cackled and joked, she lampooned.

Included in the line-up, were some of Brel’s best-known songs. Amsterdam, strangely, never recorded by Brel, told of the sailors and the prostitutes of Amsterdam. In Le Tango Funebre, Dark remained true to the macabre humour of this deathbed song, as the dying singer comments on their imminent demise and the greedy anticipation of their heirs.

Dark sang La Chanson Des Vieux Amants (Song for old lovers) with tenderness and pathos over the dramatic accompaniment; she placed her own unique mark on In the well-known Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away) as she feared imminent loss. Le diable (Ca va), La Chanson de Jacky,  Seul, Fils de…Les Paumes du Petit Matin, L’Eclusier (excerpt) and La Fanette, a sad song of friendship were also in the line-up along with Vesoul  which was cleverly integrated with an adaptation of The Land Down Under. Finally, Carousel which started as a gentle merry-go-round waltz, then accelerating wildly and spinning out of control, finally exploding like a mad circus clown.

Dark returned for an intensely moving encore, Voir un ami pleurer (To See a Friend In Tears), the lyrics of which were translated by Dark herself.

Jacqui Dark is a consummate entertainer, generous with her emotions. This was a visceral performance which more than matched the courage, the physicality and commitment demanded by the songs of Jacques Brel. She gave her all.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Jacqui Dark reprises her show ‘Jacqui Dark is Alive and Well and Living In Newtown’ at the City Recital Hall in Sydney in July










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