Cabaret Festival Review: Libby O’Donovan


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 15 June 2018

Libby O’Donovan is always entertaining but this Cabaret Festival show is enthralling. Based on the life of the notorious criminal boss Kate Leigh, O’Donovan has written a show that captures the era and examines Leigh’s rise and fall in detail. The pre-show music provided by the small ensemble of Dave McEvoy (piano), Shireen Khemlani (bass) and Eric Santucci (trumpet) set the scene beautifully. O’Donovan is a great story-teller and she doesn’t gloss over the real crimes that Leigh committed, but she tells it with a sympathetic understanding of her background and the society that she lived in.

The songs like Some Men and Worst Woman in Sydney Town take a comic look at the attitude she took to her world. O’Donovan touches on the rivalry with fellow matriarch Tilly (Matilda) Devine sharing the stage with partner Becky Cole for the very funny I won’t Waltz with Matilda. These two gang leaders were prominent in the infamous razor wars in Sydney and commanded the underworld of Sydney in the first half of the twentieth century; both are surrounded by myths and tall stories but the truth is probably just as scary.

The very simple setting and the strong support of the musicians all aided the telling of this story. O’Donovan looks the part in her twenties style costume and keeps the audience’s attention with her easy style and comic monologue. Make sure you make it to this production to be entertained by Libby and learn about Kate.

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Rating: 5/5

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season:  15- 17 June 2018
Duration: 70min
Tickets:  $46.90 – $56.90


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