They Say She’s Different: Review

They Say She’s Different, performed at Gasworks in Albert Park for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, tells the largely unknown story of funk and blues legend Betty Davis during the 60s and 70s. The show plays Tuesday 22 September to Saturday 26 September 2015.

Presented as part concert, part documentary, They Say She’s Different works as a kind of live rock concert film being played out for the audience with songs interspersed with both pre-recorded film and on-stage performances depicting the artist’s life. The use of differing styles, interludes and camera angles throughout from director Kenneth Moraleda deftly reflect the different eras and moods of the lead character and work well to encompass the immersive documentary style. This is accompanied by a very strong band lead by musical director and bass player Tony Kopa, who keeps the band focussed heavily on the rhythm section with Thommy Mann on drums, with ample support from Phil Ceberano on guitar and Glen Reither on keys and saxophone.

As with a show of this type, the singing from both the lead, Cecilia Low as Betty Davis, and vocalist Eliza Wolfgramm, is clear and tenacious, tackling the difficult source material with the right power and gravity. Low, who is also the show’s creator, writer, and producer, shines as the funk musician giving both real depth and a very healthy dose of funk to her performance.

Stepping back from this, the show made clever use of the venue with the band warming up and jamming as we walked in, and a host of characters in full 60s dress milling around the stalls and at the front of the stage. While the set was minimalist, depicting a stage that would be common in a small club, the combination of this with the pre-recorded cinematic from cinematographer Cameron Zayec, provided an immersive atmosphere before and during the show.

Unfortunately there were occasions where the vocal mix wasn’t quite right in our performance, leaving it difficult to hear the lyrics clearly when the band was in full flight. While this wasn’t a detraction from the overall show, it did at times prove challenging.

They Say She’s Different takes on a difficult and largely unknown story and it delivers it in a bold and interesting way that is well-beyond the traditional biographical style. The band is tight, the direction innovative, and the Low’s performance as Betty Davis is a convincing and at times heart-wrenching portrayal of one of funk and rock’s shining lights.

Photo courtesy of They Say She’s Different.

They Say She’s Different

Tuesday 22 September to Saturday 26 September 2015

The Big House at Gasworks
21 Graham Street
Albert Park

Doors open 7:30pm, show begins at 7:45pm
60 minutes, no interval

Cheap Tuesday: $25.00
Full: $35.00
Concession: $28:00

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