Pictured:    Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)     Picture credit: Unknown

Pictured: Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)

Picture credit: Unknown

For only two nights this week, Paddington’s Room to Play is home to what the author describes as “a light-hearted trip, deep into the twisted rabbit-hole of the human psyche.”  “It’s Not Easy Being Green” is an enjoyable,  thought-provoking showcase, during which Karen Lee Roberts (Alexandra) and Jeff Usher (Mr Sunshine) perform a collection of eight original songs, interspersed with character-filled snapshots, illustrating aspects of Alexandra’s two-year journey towards “being green.”

Life may be a cabaret (“old chum”)*, but Roberts and Usher ably demonstrate that cabaret is also the perfect form to provoke discussions about life’s highs and lows. Alexandra poses the early question “Is it kosher to speak of subjects like this?” In this show,  Roberts and Usher answer that question in the affirmative.  The majority of cabaret performances across Australia this year are more likely to touch on the racier aspects of life. But It’s Not Easy Being Green demonstrates that cabaret can also entertain, educate, and engage when touching on important issues of “mental wellness.” The emphasis throughout the evening is on entertainment: great music, original songs, delicious characterisation, and some enjoyably comic moments. But, in a thought-provoking 60 minute show, Roberts also offers insights into the challenges and experience of dealing with the manic ups and deep downs associated with mental health issues.

Roberts is a talented performer—not only author and co-producer, but also composer, singer, character actress, and comic. On stage she is well-matched by the evening’s Mr Sunshine. Legendary is an over-used word, but it certainly applies to Usher—who plays some perfectly-judged jazz and blues music, and even provides accomplished beat-boxing accompaniments along the way. Audiences will have their personal favourites from the evening. I found it difficult to pick just one song, but got it down to a top three: the opening “Society’s Blues,” the frenetic “Chameleon,” and the closing “Ever Pure.” Mind you, if I could make it a top four then the beat-boxing exercise rap could be a great addition to anyone’s exercise playlist.

The production has clearly benefited from the direction of IndelABILITY Arts  fellow-professional, Catarina Hebbard. Under Hebbard’s direction, the show works well within the intimate space—aided by the beautiful lighting and great technical support.  As a result, we focus on the writing, concentrating to catch every word.  

One of the great things about cabaret is that the audience is an important part of the evening. The interactions between Alexandra and Mr Sunshine were well-worked (perhaps more would have been even better), and the switch from on-stage to direct audience engagement was beautifully done. London’s Time Out suggests that cabaret can “change the world.” At the end of the show you may leave realising that its ok to venture beyond safe chitchat about “canapés and cocktails” and be prepared to respond to honest conversational openers.

Queensland’s Mental Health week starts on 9th October 2016. Why not invest in your own mental wellness and drop into Paddington’s historic 1930’s Substation this weekend to see for yourself how successful the versatile Room to Play performance space is.  It’s Not Easy Being Green is only at Room to Play, Paddington for two nights (730pm on both Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October, 2016).  Tickets are available at Eventbrite ($26.25 adult, $21 concession—including booking fees) or, if not sold out, may also be available at the door (cash payment only,  $25 full and $20 concession). Arrive at 7pm to take the opportunity to visit the cash bar before selecting your seat.


* yes, I am singing Fred Ebb’s words and trying to conjure my inner Liza Minnelli as I write…


Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended a dress rehearsal of It’s Not Easy Being Green on Wednesday 5 October, 2016.