[2014004] Rachel Collis – Naked Dream

[2014004] Rachel Collis – Naked Dream [FringeTIX]

Rachel Collis @ La Bohème

8:00pm, Wed 12 Feb 2014

My endearing memory of Rachel Collis is that she was a quality cabaret performer somewhat restricted by her lyrical content; her show last year left me somewhat conflicted. So the opportunity to see her again – to confirm or dismiss my personal concerns & reactions – was locked in nice and early.

In front of a quiet audience of ten (of which two were reviewers), Collis sang and played piano (and, occasionally, ukelele) without accompaniment. Dressed in an inverse of last year’s ensemble – red hair and black dress, versus 2013’s black hair and red dress – Collis hunched over the keys and thoughtfully concocted her opening piece If I Could… it’s a beautiful piece, with contemplative and heartfelt lyrics that meld with the tone of the song.

And, unfortunately, it’s the highlight of the show.

Whilst Winter in Munich resurrects that kind of vibe later in the performance, much of the content feels like an attempt to create quirky numbers with comedy content. Many of her songs tend to have curious rhymes that capture the imagination (“heaven” with “devon”, “pina colada” with “cicada”) which delight the first time, but grate after the fourth or fifth repetition… because they’re the lead lines in the chorus.

And… there’s little passion in the lyrics. There’s songs about the Lebanese restaurant in her neighbourhood that exploded, there’s songs about her cats, and they’re delivered in the same style and tone. The closest she gets to passion (after the sterling opener) is singing about her husband… but, even then, only the words are there: singing a little softer, and bobbing your head a little lower to the keys, doesn’t completely sell it to me. And the encore, a tweaked version of her old favourite If the Germans Won the War, was disappointing: the change of federal government has stretched her capacity for political commentary to near breaking-point.

And that’s a massive shame, because I actually enjoy her performance. I love Collis’ voice – she manages buttery smooth transitions from low to high… though her highs can get a little shrill in extended stretches. And her playing is lovely – her left hand can really hammer those low notes out. And whilst the construction of most of her songs has an enjoyable appreciation of space, the lyrics… I just can’t get past the lyrics.

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