Bigger & Blacker begins with Steven Oliver’s iconic line from ABC’s Black Comedy. It is appropriate, given that the Cloncurry-born writer and actor is probably best-known for his sketch performances in the fast-paced, provocative and bold foray into race relations. However, as his autobiographical comedy cabaret shows, there is much more to this self-proclaimed faboriginal descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples.
The double-marginalisation of being a minority within a minority gives Oliver clear fodder for content, especially early on, during which he combines comedy and contemplation with saucy stories. Black & Blacker is equal parts cheeky and charming. Oliver in a commanding showman. He is also touching in his emotional honestly when talking about kinship, connection and affection for his mob, and poignant in his candid reflection on the downside of fame.
Music, like life, is a journey, Oliver explains to the audience as he contextualises the cabaret’s creation through songs about his lived experiences, written over many years. We are taken on a trip through Oliver’s life since he performed in first professional gig in Brisbane in the early 1990s. His original songs feature clever lyrics and rhymes. His repertoire covers perky pop, urban rap and lilting lullabies. Oliver has an infectious energy.
He banters with his on-stage musical companion, the musical director and Helpmann-Award winning cabaret star, Michael Griffiths (who also provides back-up vocals and harmonies). This guarantees a night replete with hip-swinging, maraca moments and clap along storytelling and song. Humour comes not only from the lyrics, but from Oliver’s amusing bridging conversations with the audience.
Bigger & Blacker takes us to some unexpected places, including a revelation as to why a Whitney Houston number was among the pre-show songs.
It is showing at La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre until March 27.
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.