This Infernal Racket is a night of pure cabaret pleasure. Alternating between Judith Owen’s gorgeous ballads, and Harry Shearer’s ascerbic satirical numbers, the audience is pulled between comfort and confrontation in a rollicking examination of the modern world.
As explained at the show’s opening, the titular ‘racket’ is that which exists in both Shearer and Owen’s heads. Owen’s racket is that of a battle against personal anxieties and the black dog, while Shearer’s is an internal storm of frustration and spite created by the world’s insanity. Each soothes their soul and expunges the ‘racket’ through songwriting. While they share this personal cure for the ills of the world, the resulting songs from both artists could not be more different. Owen’s songs are soulful, beautiful ballads with deeply introspective lyrics. Her soaring voice hypnotises and fits perfectly with the score. Switching between the two, Shearer snaps the audience out of the relaxed vibe Owen creates with dark and hilarious take downs of the world’s rich and powerful. In this, the show is a great example of what cabaret should be. This isn’t show tunes and off-Broadway numbers. This is challenging stuff and forces the audience to confront the harsh realities of our age. Through song! Shearer’s nonchalant segues from Owen’s moving performances into songs – such as a Beach Boys-esque parody of the US government’s complicity in practising torture (Waterboarding USA!) – are particular highlights. The accompanying musicians deserve equal praise. For seamlessly flitting between genres and styles without batting an eyelid, these musicians are as superb as their contributions are subtle. The bassist Leland Sklar and keyboardist C.J. Vanston‘s contributions do not betray their own international cult-stardom, and Pedro Segundo is excellent on percussion. 4 Stars Harry Shearer and Judith Owen: This Infernal Racket will perform once more at the Dunstan Playhouse on Friday, June 17 at 9pm. adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au