‘Eco-Worrier’: A climate cabaret
Written and performed by Hannah Gwatkin
At Brisbane’s Anywhere Festival, May 2023
The staging was simple. A full band tableau of sax, piano, uke, drum and … is that a dance pad? Intriguing already.
One of the joys of the Anywhere Festival is the use of unconventional spaces for the performance of music and theatre. The office of the Wilderness Society was, well, officey. The photocopier tucked to one side and campaign posters hung around. Lighting was set for peering into ecosphere wrong-doings and eco-crimes. The pleasant buzz of curiosity and expectation warmed the full house.
Hannah came on with a whirlwind song-story of ecological realities told with humour, grief, anger, empathy and more humour. There was neither a note, eco-fact nor theme out of place in a beautifully crafted tapestry of self-written songs, parodies and well known songs from film and theatre.
With Jazz, rap, house; using sax solos, piano, vocal loops, drum and a few judicious backing tracks there wasn’t a genre her voice couldn’t handle, even while tap dancing. And you could hear every tongue twisting word of it! That standing ovation burst out of a very moved, thoroughly entertained group of people.
Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddamn was a brilliant eruption of passionate rage against racial injustice. Hannah’s desire to use music to address ecological injustices was inspired by this song. Her hilarious transformation into a mud-crab, the frat-boy.com persona and the “I wanna be in a Japanese Boy Band” song of broken promises filled the room with laughter.
When reflecting on her desire to have children in the knowledge of the increasingly unstable climate, we all became eco-worriers too. Using another well chosen song with effortless, soaring delivery Hannah shared a hopeful determination.
Hannah’s energy shone. In a short chat after the show she vowed to continue musical “action” with an urgent and necessary focus. Imagine if every creative person acted with such integrity? What if every worker refused to be involved in doing anything to diminish the soil, water, air systems we rely on for life?
I am really looking forward to Hannah inspiring rebellion next time she performs in Brisbane or anywhere. Anyone who can do cabaret in an office and make it feel like an intimate show in the Powerhouse is worth following closely.
[Eco-Worrier: A climate cabaret is on again at the Sydney Fringe Festival in September.]