To Coincide with their sold out run at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Strange Bedfellows, aka Jacqueline Dark and Kanen Breen have released their first album, Under the Covers - Live at the Vanguard.
Jacqueline Dark and Kanen Breen are multiple Helpmann and Green Room award winners and are two of Australia's best loved operatic and theatre performers. Having performed on stages across the globe, including the Vienna State Opera, Broadway, The Edinburgh Festival and The Sydney Opera House, Dark and Breen are now turning their hands to 'detonate across the footlights in this debauched and greasepaint-spattered riot of musical abandon.'
The Strange Bedfellows answered some questions prior to the release of the new album and explained what we can expect from the album, gave us an insight into their creative process and also a look into Jacqui's debut solo release, Pinning Clouds, also released this week & available now.
So, Jacqui and Kanen. You’re both very well known as opera singers and now you’re diving into the dark waters of cabaret and have released a live CD of your first show Under The Covers. Can you describe your act The Strange Bedfellows for us?
J: It’s bawdy, filthy, despicable … and lots of fun. When we decided to write the show, we wanted to get back to the original roots of German cabaret and leave our audiences thinking, or challenge them to look at the world through different eyes. The piece Kane wrote certainly challenged me to try to sing it without feeling a bit sick! There’s a lot of our own hearts in there – cabaret is such a brilliant opportunity to present things that really matter to us, often in a strange and oblique way, but hopefully in a way that touches people.
K: A middle aged “couple” air their dirty laundry in public. It's therapy. It's exhibitionism. It's an exorcism. You can actually hear my back-fat squelching around in my corset on the recording. We're all class.
How did the name come about?
J: It’s just us, really. A gay man and a straight woman living under the same roof and bringing up a child together. On a chilly night, we often share a bed literally, and we are very strange, so it seemed only right.
K: I am constantly having tantric intercourse with Madam, though she doesn't know it. The imagination is a wonderful and terrifying thing. SHE is very strange, the voices in my head assure me that I am the normal one.
Give us an idea of what we might expect to hear on Under The Covers.
J: There’s some authentic German Kabarett (Eisler and Spoliansky). Some ‘modern cabaret’ (as we like to call it) from folk like Amanda Palmer, who write fantastic, hard-hitting pieces that we love. Some Divinyls, Rickie Lee Jones … a whole mix of composers that we admire, and some classical/operatic touches scattered in here and there. There are also two original numbers – mine is about my experiences with IVF and Kane’s is repulsive, unmentionable piece concerning the dark side of sexual experimentation. I wrote my song because when I was going through IVF I felt very isolated and it felt taboo to even mention it, so I decided that I’d be completely open about it and try to open the doors of discussion a little. It’s a brilliant miracle of a thing and we should celebrate it!
K: You might expect to hear all the notes and lyrics in the right places; if this is your expectation, then we remind you now that no refunds are possible.
We hear that your show, and the CD, come with strong language and adult theme warnings. Should we be worried?
J: Yes, I think you probably should. Honestly, when Kane brought me his piece, my immediate reaction was “We can’t sing that!!!”. But we did, and the audiences seem to relish getting down and grotty with us, the dirty little beasts. There is no saving humankind! I actually think that the most confronting piece is Slide, which deals in a very subtle and sinister way with child abuse – it gives me chills every time I sing it; it’s a devastatingly simple song.
What is your favourite track on the album?
J: The IVF Song is the closest to my heart, but I pretty much adore every single song. When we rehearsed the show, I remember thinking “Oh, I LOVE this song!” every time we started a new number, which is always a good place to start. ‘Sing’ is a rousing anthem for the performing arts, and always gives me goosebumps, and our version of Verdorbene Liebe is always a hoot to perform.
K: I like all of Jacqui's songs because that means I was backstage sucking down a beer and a fag.
Jacqui, you’re also releasing your first solo album, Pinning Clouds. Tell us a little about that.
It’s about time! Lovely folk (and my mum) have been asking me for years when I’m going to have a CD, so I thought I’d better get onto it! I recorded it during my time as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, so I was living inside the heart of a kind, wise, generous woman, and this CD really does reflect that. I have the incredible good fortune to be working with genius musical director Daryl Wallis, whose arrangements on this album are truly extraordinary. We recently sang our version of You’ll Never Walk Alone interpolated with The Lark Ascending (and you should have seen his face when I asked him to whip THAT one up for me!) with the SSO, beautifully orchestrated by Jessica Wells, and the audience fell as much in love with it as we did, which was so beautiful to see.
K: Vanity Project.
What does the future hold for The Strange Bedfellows?
J: Prison? Psych evaluation? Our new show, which we just debuted at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, is titled BEDLAM, and is an investigation of madness in all its forms. It’s a much more serious, dark show than the last one and we’re incredibly proud of it! The way we work is to keep tweaking shows as events shape our lives, so (as our poor MD Daryl will attest) no two shows are ever the same. I love The Beddies, and I can’t wait to see where they take us next!
K: I will be leaving the act to join a touring production of “Annie” in North Korea, though Jacqui does not know this yet. I figure she can learn about it here. By the time she reads this article, I will be gone, so I wish you all the best with your future endeavours Jacqueline.
Jacqueline Dark is a Helpmann and Green Room Award winning Australian mezzo-soprano, whose performance experience encompasses opera, music theatre, cabaret and concert performances. She recently won her second Helpmann Award for her performance as Fricka in Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle, sang as a soloist in the gala concert to open Melbourne’s Hamer Hall and created the cabaret duo Strange Bedfellows with her friend and colleague Kanen Breen.
She has appeared on television as a guest vocalist on So You Think You Can Dance for Channel 10 and as a guest panellist on the popular music quiz show Spicks and Specks for ABC Television.
Jacqueline’s performances as Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro), Annina (Der Rosenkavalier), Katisha (The Mikado) and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) were filmed by CinemaLive and Opera Australia for international cinema and DVD release.
A multiple Helpmann and Green Room Award winner, Kanen Breen is one of Australia’s most sought-after tenors and is often dubbed ‘the clown prince of opera’.
He has performed in opera, music theatre, cabaret and concert for companies including Opera Australia, Victorian Opera, Opera Queensland, and Brisbane Festival, and he performed to high acclaim in the lead role of Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann’s "La Boheme" on Broadway. He recently performed the role of Andy Warhol in Philip Glass’ "The Perfect American" for the Brisbane Festival.
Kanen premiered the role of The Swagman in Jonathan Mills’ "The Ghost Wife" at the Melbourne Festival, and made his international debut in this role at the Barbican Centre in London. He also premiered the role of Rory in Paul Grabowsky and Joanna Murray-Smith’s" Love in the Age Of Therapy" for the Melbourne and Sydney Festivals.
JD001 - Pinning Clouds (CD)
JD002 - Under the Covers:Live at The Vanguard (CD)