By Kasia Ozog
Published: Monday, June 6, 2022
Iconic singer-songwriter Tina Arena speaks to samotor about “the beautiful mixed bag of candy” she’s bringing to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in her role as Artistic Director.
Boasting a global career spanning 40 years, Australia’s sweetheart Tina Arena is creating an Adelaide Cabaret Festival program she’s calling a “hamburger with the lot” and a “beautiful mixed bag of candy”.
Arena has created an eclectic 12-day program featuring 377 artists and musicians across 97 performances. We chat with the singer about what audiences can expect during the festival, held from 10 to 25 June.
samotor: You’re one of Australia’s most iconic singer-songwriters. How does it feel being appointed the Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival?
Tina Arena: It’s an extraordinary privilege to be able to artistically direct the festival. First of all, I never really thought that’s what I’d be doing, but it kind of makes sense seeing that I’ve had a career performing. So, I guess I’m somewhat qualified to some degree to be able to put something together. I don’t feel like a fish out of water, which is good, so I’m obviously in the right place doing the show. It’s an incredible team. The country is full of incredible talent, and I just think after the last couple of years, art has definitely punched way above its weight in how intrinsically it’s involved in every aspect of our lives and how we can’t live without it.
samotor: What are you looking forward to most about the role?
TA: For me, I’m just really excited that everybody can just get back and do what they do. That’s it for me, in a nutshell. Just for people to come back to their craft and to be able to do their craft. I mean, that’s vital.
samotor: What sort of program have you created?
TA: The direction is really eclectic. The whole thing is very diverse. It celebrates the many cultures that make up Australia including contemporary First Nations music, European music, and stories from across Asia. It really is the hamburger with the lot, cabaret-style. Intimate, anything goes, spontaneous. I think it’s lovely.
samotor: What do you want people to know about cabaret?
TA: It’s an art form that is multi-levelled, it’s multi-dimensional. It’s not just sitting, singing a song with tables and chairs and little lights. It can be reciting poetry, it can be suspended in the air, you can be coming out of a birthday cake. It’s cabaret, it’s life drawings, it’s telling stories about certain performers in retrospect, and social issues – [it’s] all sorts of things. Whether it’s in a play, whether it’s in music form, dance form, [or] comic form.
samotor: Do you have any show recommendations?
TA: I reckon people should see friggin’ all of it. How to Kill Your Husband will be a great show. Love on the Left Bank is going to be beautiful too. [It’s about] the life of the late French singer Juliette Gréco who was a delight. Her story will be very, very interesting.
The Shanghai MiMi Band featuring Sophie Koh, who’s Chinese-Australian, [is] funny, irreverent, and very highly emotionally intelligent. [Also] Meow Meow in the show Pandemonium and another show by my dear friend Emma Pask. Lior and Domini will have their own show in an Adelaide premiere and Oliver Twist is doing a show called Jali.
Honestly, I think that it’s a really beautiful mixed bag of candy – a seriously beautiful mixed bag that will appeal to many across the board. There’s really a lot [and] it’s very stylish too, so it’s very exciting.
samotor: Do you have any closing words?
TA: Just come along and have some fun. Come have a pina colada, martini and enjoy it. Let the performers lead you astray… seriously, because we will lead you astray. I think there are a lot of people excited about being led astray. Just be entertained.