Cabaret Festival Review: Mark Holden’s Greatest Show on Earth


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 13 June 2018

Mark Holden has had a long and chequered career, which he talks about in this wander down memory lane, but his focus seems to be more on family and his circus roots. He is the descendant of a long line of big top performers from the Holden Bros Circus and he feels it is still in his blood, and his family.

Starting with tales he heard in his childhood, fleshed out with research he has done on family members and both Holden Bros Circus and Ashton’s Family Circus (the two combined at times) and with the aid of photos of family and the circuses, he spins his tale, peppered with songs, most of which he has written.

Holden still has a good voice and his musical reminiscing is mostly pleasant, but he has live musicians on stage with him yet chooses to use backing tracks. It is understandable that he wishes to include some of his family members featured on the tracks but it is puzzling to see a group of good musicians uncredited and under utilised. When given the opportunity they shone (especially the lead guitar) just like his final song, Shine.

Holden covers his past, warts and all. His surprisingly short burst at what he calls the ‘Carnation Kid’, his foray into music writing and management, his time with David Hasselhoff and his time on Aussie reality shows. The early look at his family’s dark secret from the past when, in the days of settlement, they were involved in the removal of the indigenous population is obviously something he was unaware of before preparing this show and his song Killing Party lays the problem bare.

Holden’s career has been a rollercoaster with exceptional highs and lows and many failures following the successes, but he owns them all with wry humour and he’s still standing. This show was probably not what loyal fans of the ‘Carnation Kid’ expected, but it was interesting and worth seeing.

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Rating: 3/5

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season:  13- 14 June 2018
Duration: 80min
Tickets:  $41.90 – $51.90


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