When life throws you lemons, make lemon tart! So advises singing goddess herself, Raelene Isbester, in her 2016 award-winning tale of all the ingredients that make up the televisual culinary domestic goddess we so love in a reinvention of her original creation Nigella- Love Bites.
There is so much to like in this production which won Best Performer and Cabaret in the 2016 Short & Sweet Short Play Festival at The Butterfly Club and has toured successfully to WA and Adelaide Fringe. A lifelike likeness, incredible impression via movement, pose and accent, fabulous piano accompaniment, tight scenes, a witty script, dramatic insight, and a collection of very hummable songs with deft lyrics, you get it all here. This show doesn’t hold back, just like the lady in her kitchen!
Sending up all that we love about Nig’ – midnight trips to her fridge, suggestive posturing, quirky intelligent thoughts, and down-to-earth practical cooking smarts- this show looks into many aspects of this famed siren’s life, both private and professional. And, at times, confessional! With a set that resembles the mock-kitchen of her TV series, and any working food celebrity, we have cooking implements, a fridge, food prep benches galore for impromptu cooking lessons, whilst also offering life and love lessons, where Nigella strokes and manhandles her tools with all the decadent sensuousness of melted chocolate sauce.
A song set composed by Shanon D Whitelock, Francesca Li Donni, Tim Hansen & Others, with titles like Cooker Pressure, Sumptuous and Sensual, the ‘rich & moist’ Chocolate Cake song, MasterBashing, and Life Is Better With Pleasure, you know you are not in the hands of a denialist here, and Isbester embraces this, putting her voluptuousness up front and centre. Funny audience participation from a George Colombaris lookalike provided local spice!as well did her confident audience interaction and suggestive jokes. Isbester loves all aspects of this living Aphrodite and prowls the room like a cat on heat, flirting with men, both partnered and available! Yet all the women in the crowd love her. She is indeed a Goddess for all and this clever performance revels in all this.
From her first appearance in food-stained dressing gown to the glamorous reveal of her in a suggestive red dress that shows all her curves, it’s all about show with Nigella. We cover her place in the Twitterverse, High’gellagate, a messy public divorce, and the airing of her private life, yet this show also goes serious with reference to domestic abuse and how the media treat powerful women, and women who embrace being plus-sized and their sexuality. It also touches on the loss of her first husband to cancer and the maternal protectiveness she shows her children, unlike Jamie Oliver’s, rarely ever publicly presented under her brand name.
Alex Theatre Studio is a perfect space for cabaret, with its high-ceilinged open space with small tables, broad stage with grand piano, sensitively played by Daniele Buatti, of Broadway Unplugged, who makes the music perfectly pitched to the sentiment, delicately partnering Isbester. The star of our show is our leading lady, who has great vocal range, physical presence and confidence, who brings us a sophisticated script that is not fawning but is authentically truthful- she gets to the bottom of this larger than life persona (excuse the pun)!
A fabulous piece of Melbourne theatre that will travel well anywhere in the world. Nigella herself would approve. I could hear her Mmm.. in the background post-show. As our lead advises : Find your guilty pleasure and relish in it! Mine is good quality original Australian theatre told with a twist, and here I got a full serve.
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Nigella – Love Bites shows 14-23 September, 8pm (55 mins) at The Studio, Alex Theatre, St Kilda. Book tickets here. The venue is accessible.
Keep some room in your pantry for Nigella- Love Bites’ Christmas Nutcracker 13- 15 December at The Butterfly Club.
Click here for What’s On for the full Melbourne Fringe 2017 program, 14 September – 1 October.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Melbourne Fringe.
Image credit: Raelene Isbester.