Performance artist and singer Sarah Ward had already established a profile on the cabaret circuit in Australia when she created her alter ego Yana Alana in 2006.
Her show Between the Cracks won a stream of awards at the Adelaide Fringe including the 2014 Helpmann Award for Best Cabaret Performer and two Green Room Awards for Best Production and Best Cabaret Artiste.
Alana is a somewhat deluded queer icon and her comeback show is spiralling manically out of control. She pops pills between numbers, flirts precariously with the audience and sends her all-female band packing mid show in an effort to ease an over inflated ego.
It’s all a bit of a nightmare, intensely heightened by the fact that Alana is wearing nothing but blue body paint, glitter and a Marie Antoinette fright wig.
The nudity is a metaphor however, as Alana gradually bears her soul on stage and even if the songs veer toward the satirical, there is a serious edge to the way the show explores sexual politics, feminism and queer sensibilities. It helps that Ward is an accomplished vocalist and her clipped tones, softened occasionally with an Aussie burr, have a rallying quality, calling the audience to arms against the patriarchy.
The perfectly pitched Broadway-style finale Life is a One Woman Show changes the tone slightly but underlines the message of self-belief and determination that permeates the act.
Satirising cabaret constructs may not be new, but there are layers to Between the Cracks that prick the conscience between the belly laughs.