/ Jennifer Kingwell

The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters is a fine tribute to Homer: lyrical and literary all at once, in both the song numbers and in the between-song patter. Jennifer Kingwell has a strong command of this show, making it very much her own, between the radical cheerleading and bright performances, as she gives up a very unique cabaret offering.

At the heart of this show is such an inspired idea that I'm surprised it hasn't been used elsewhere and everywhere: accomplished strings and grungy cabaret. And it's a conceit that Kingwell takes to the bank, showing just how well "Heartbeats" works on strings over synths. A solid opening move, and I'm not even mad she repeated the effort at the close.

Kingwell brings much more to the show, though: first up, she is funny. She gets laughs, sure, but I mean she attempts gags which look plain awful on paper, and yet work so very, very well with her sense of comedic timing. She is a performer who is genuinely more charming and hilarious as a cabaret singer than many a stand-up comic, and that ain't nothing.

The weakness, perhaps, is that she is not the most accomplished singer I've had the pleasure to witness. Which is not a slight, as such: I've been treated to the best. But when Kingwell shies away from the booming, emotion-heavy chorus line of "Life on Mars", and opts for a quieter note, it's not so much that she does this as that she doesn't convincingly make the song her own in re-imagining it.

Likewise, when she treats "Chandelier" to a crying-drunk, deliberately overplayed reenactment, the problem is that she hits the emotional beats of that song with a flatness which undermines the whole effort. What makes Sia so unique, after all, is her ability to go from husky to belting, or from fragile to effusive, without missing a beat. In her reproduction, Kingwell invites unfavourable comparison, because she can't sell the emotional inflection where it really counts.

Not on her covers, anyway. Where it comes to her original compositions, Kingwell finds the heights, and I couldn't find a thing to fault about her treatment of her own material. And the writing skills she employed in scripting this show are evident in her lyrics, which are perfectly-well composed.

Kingwell wanted us to all die a little from her performance. Unfortunately for her, I left feeling more alive than when I arrived. A great show, and a fine performer, with excellent accompaniment.

★★★★