For years, Anya Anastasia has been a staple of the Adelaide Fringe. In fact, it’s where she got her start as a solo performer.
“My first show at the Fringe in 2010, and we unexpectedly had an amazing season, selling out all nine nights at Nexus Cabaret,” Anastasia says. From there, she’s travelled all over the country, and abroad to Prague and New Zealand, aboard the non-stop global festival circuit caravan. Anastasia relocated to Melbourne last October but she is hesitant to say she has moved away from Adelaide. Rather, she just “needed a room to keep her things in” while she pursued new show business connections and opportunities. “I wanted to be a small fish in a big pond.” Anastasia mentions that she counts her Adelaide roots as an artistic asset. “Because of the geography and the nature of the Adelaide arts scene,” she says, “artists get the chance to evolve really separately from immediate artistic community influence. They develop individual styles.” ‘Individual’ is a word which aptly describes Anastasia’s work. Equipped with an extraordinary voice, and costumed opulently, she brings a series of weird and wonderful characters to life in her new show, the rather macabrely titled Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death. “I was always thought of as a goth growing up because of my morbid sense of humour,” she says, “but I think I’m quite positive!” Given the title, those unacquainted with Anastasia’s previous shows might anticipate something rather bleak rather than the raucous reality. Indeed, when one thinks of light hearted musical comedy, the first theme which jumps to mind is seldom ‘the crushing certainty of death’. “This show follows the journey of my really contemporary and slightly mad version, of Marie Antoinette. She appears as a ghost and relives parts of her indulgent and exciting life.” The title of the show is inspired by the French queen. “’Let them eat cake’ is the line that everybody recognises, even though she never said it, but it’s the essence of the show. Antoinette is such a rich character. Not just in the history of who she was – her fashion statements, her outrageous behaviour – but also the way she’s been interpreted, and become an icon of excess and indulgence.” Decadent pre-revolutionary France is, for Anastasia, a means to talk about contemporary western society. “I want to talk about our obsession with celebrities who are badly behaved and,” she laughs, “doing the things we want to be doing!” Torte e Mort follows Antoinette’s ghost through her post-mortem adventures, and introduces other characters to the narrative as well. The story, according to Anastasia, “follows her journey into the underworld and beyond, where we meet my version of the devil and the grim reaper”. Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death has undergone years of preparation. “I wrote the show, and then I met with director Sarah Ward. She smashed the show apart and then we pieced it back together. It was brilliant and devastating all at once. It was then brought to another director, Sue Broadway, who helped with the staging and physicality of it. “By the time we got to Melbourne it was really polished but, at the same time, the show really only gets its life once it started being in front of people, especially cabaret which feeds so much off the energy in the room and interaction with the audience.” Anastasia says the run in Melbourne was a dream, over all too soon, and she’s terribly excited to mount the performance again back in Adelaide. Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death Royal Croquet Club Friday, February 12 to Sunday, February 21 anyaanastasia.com adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix