FRINGE REVIEW: 'Melba' is witty, intimate, and honest
Nellie Melba, famous Australian opera singer of the late 20s, was the very first Australian that was acknowledged worldwide as a classical musician. Melba, produced by Tempest Theatre, is a short theatrical piece that portrays one of her many final farewells - so many that the sarcastic expression ‘doing a Melba’ came to exist.
Directed by Susie Conte and written by Dawn Farnham, Melba is a heartfelt, intimate performance. Held at Lady Beaufort, the audience is placed barely a foot away from the performers, who are not elevated or on a stage. Rather, they are on the same level as the audience, making the show seem much more than a mere interpretation of the characters and more “real”, as if we are eavesdropping on conversations that really did happen. From pearl necklaces, right through to vintage fur shawls, the set consisted of a range of props that helped create the illusion of being in a dressing room in the 20s. A plate of lamingtons act as a subtle, yet sweet reference to Melba’s Australian background.
Throughout the show, it was clear that although small, the cast was very talented and well-suited to each of their roles. Susie Conte expertly portrays Nellie Melba, presenting the perfect amount of sassy and spoilt - exactly what you’d expect from a world famous diva. It was easy to believe that Conte was truly an internationally acclaimed soprano - her acting appeared so effortless and natural that at times, it was truly easy to forget that she was playing a role. Her dedicated private secretary, Beverly is convincingly played by Liam Longley, who’s comedic execution made the audience laugh again and again. Yvonne Dupont, a fake wannabe star, is skilfully portrayed by Isobel Ferguson. Together, the three were able to make the audience truly understand Melba’s reluctance to let go, the difficulty of accepting reality and the sadness of saying goodbye.
Witty and honest, Melba is expertly presented by a small but talented cast. Those who are a fan of intimate theatre will enjoy the watch, however, don’t go if you’re expecting fireworks to go off with a bang. The show very much highlights the acting talent of the cast, rather than using fancy lights and sound to provide audience enjoyment.