Cabaret & variety review: Yana Alana – Between The Cracks, Assembly Checkpoint

Yana Alana: Powerhouse vocals, high-octane fun, and a rage against injustice. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Yana Alana: Powerhouse vocals, high-octane fun, and a rage against injustice. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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When Yana Alana sings about being blue, she’s not kidding.

Yana Alana – Between The Cracks, Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322) ****

This powerhouse performer from Australia makes her Fringe debut wearing nothing but deep blue body paint, judiciously augmented with diamanté encrustations and a huge explosion of a blue wig. And Alana does have some things to be down about: the strictures of the patriarchy, her accompanist’s insistence on taking calls in the middle of a show, the general failure of the world to rearrange itself around how goddamn fabulous she obviously is. The overall tone of the hour is not, however, despondency. It’s high-octane, ball-busting, eye-popping fun.

Blessed with cracking pipes, an imperious brow and zero reservations about getting intimate with her audience even when her show threatens to implode, Alana combines the meta-theatrical showmanship of Meow Meow with the defiantly grotesque self-assurance of Divine and the cartoonish mischief of a Smurf. She wastes no time in establishing her chops, knocking us back with terrific vocals, a checklist of socially-conscious political positions and some nifty clown work involving her musicians.

• READ MORE: Interview: Cabaret star Yana Alana discusses art, body paint and anxiety

Alana’s songs playfully highlight an open and irreverent attitude around sex, mental health and the dangers of embracing normality for its own sake, all helped along by nuggets of narcissistic wisdom, an abdominal vibrating belt and a long blue ribbon retrieved from an unexpected location. Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy has rarely been quite so, well, manic.

Beneath the sometimes monstrous persona, there’s a deep seam of genuine melancholy – not sadness as such but consistent hints acknowledging the real injustices and vulnerabilities of life for those outside the bounds of easy and obvious acceptance, and the harm that can be done when such exclusion is ignored or reinforced.

Alana’s achievement is to ensure such points come through strongly while keeping her fast-paced, boisterous and uproariously entertaining show on the road.

• Until 26 August, 8pm