Cabaret & Variety review: Carla Lippis – Cast a Dark Shadow

Carla Lippis & her band, Vicky Falconer Pritchard & Geoff Crowther. Picture: Alistair Linford
Carla Lippis & her band, Vicky Falconer Pritchard & Geoff Crowther. Picture: Alistair Linford
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Australian cabaret singer Carla Lippis’s debut Fringe show might take place in the up-close-and-personal environs of the Boards barroom but it has a decidedly cinematic sweep.

The Boards (Venue 59)

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Australian cabaret singer Carla Lippis’s debut Fringe show might take place in the up-close-and-personal environs of the Boards barroom but it has a decidedly cinematic sweep.

From the opening notes, a dreamy, foreboding soundscape evocative of the films of David Lynch is conjured by guitarist Geoff Crowther and musical director Vicky Falconer-Pritchard, who commands a formidable array of keyboards, vintage drum machines and theremin (and is unrecognisable as her alter ego, EastEnd Cabaret’s Victor Victoria). Then Lippis enters, delivering an achingly emotive take on A Whiter Shade of Pale, voice compelling, sonorous, almost anguished, face contorted in feeling. It establishes the tone for a heady set of musical power and heightened delivery.

Lippis’s stage persona calls to mind a whole spectrum of movie iconography. Her black bob, vampish allure and dramatically expressive eyes bring to mind silent-era siren Louise Brooks, while her empowered patter hints at film-noir femmes fatales – or, in its more macabre moments, Universal horror pictures. At her lightest, there are even glimpses of Chaplin or Keaton. There’s a sense of entering an intense world apart, embarking on a wild ride marked at first by a plaintive yearning, then a voracious defiance.

The music plays out accordingly, alternating between imaginative covers and original numbers. Of the former, Nirvana’s Lithium gets a deceptively simple yet moving arrangement, Roy Orbison’s In Dreams takes on an unexpectedly driving bass line and L7’s Fast and Frightening proves itself a rip-roaring anthem of unbridled sexuality.

Original songs include the lacerating Rotten Heart. From the emotional delivery to the vocal technique to the musical ambition, it’s all turned up to 11, like a gathering storm or a stampede approaching from the horizon. It’s tantalising to imagine the show on a grander stage, backed by a Lynchian red curtain or a flickering silver screen.

Until 26 August. Today 6:30pm.