Alan Cumming

Everything is as it should be

Nowhere has this proved more appropriate than in my tenure as Artistic Director for the 2021 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

I agreed to come on board in September of 2019, with a plan to attend the 2020 festival in June to get to know the ropes and then reconvene in August at the Edinburgh Festival and scour my homeland’s capital to snag the most exciting cabaret acts on offer for Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2021.

As we all know, that little virus (Ms Rona to her friends) had other plans. The 2020 Adelaide Cabaret Festival was an online only event, the Edinburgh festivals were cancelled and suddenly all the goalposts were changed and I was in zoom meetings discussing venue cleaning turnaround times and hotel quarantine budgets.

But not being able to go the usual, conventional route (attending other festivals and snapping up the latest cabaret wunderkinds) forced me to really think what it was I wanted to do as Artistic Director.

And what I want to do is say thank you.

I first came to Adelaide in 1989 as half of a cabaret double act, Victor and Barry. We played two weeks at Adelaide Festival Centre on our Australian tour and had a blast. We took the tram up and down to our apartment in Glenelg, we even appeared on A Touch of Elegance. Maybe because Adelaide is the younger brother, or sister, or non-binary sibling to other, bigger Australian cities, I felt it was not competing for my attention like they were, and I really enjoyed my time and felt I made a proper connection with the place.

And connection is what I am all about. I have the E.M.Forster quote ‘Only Connect’ tattooed on my forearm. I think there is nothing more, or better, any artist could wish for than to feel he (or she or they) connect properly with an audience.

I realised that so many of my formative cabaret experiences had an Australian connection. That tour of Australia was my first time ever working outside of the UK and the year before I had met so many wonderful Aussie performers when they stormed the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the unforgettable Oznost season. The second stop after New York City of my debut solo cabaret show I Bought A Blue Car Today was Sydney Mardi Gras.

I love the spirit and the joy and the spunk and the fusion of high and low culture that is Australia. And I even love the slight inferiority complex it can have because I have that too. In fact, the entire description above could apply to me! I have spirit! I have joy! I have spunk! And I am definitely a fusion of the high and the low!

So I decided this festival would be about two things: a reminder of the smorgasbord of emotions and genres and forms that cabaret truly can be AND a turning of the spotlight back onto Australian talent who have inspired and delighted me for so long—some old friends, others I have admired from afar.

I truly believe there is something for everyone here. From mental health to penis painting to knitting! And joy, lots of joy. I think we all need some of that after the last 18 months!

This festival is my love letter to Australia and especially to Adelaide. Thank you for all the joy, all the wonder, all the grit. And thank you also for pie floaters. I had my first one 32 years ago and my life changed. My first edict as Artistic Director was to ensure we had vegan ones available this year.

You’re welcome. Alan x

Twitter: @AlanCumming
Instagram: @alancummingsnaps