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Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond at The Butterfly Club

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by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from
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Shaken- And Always A Stir
Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Charlie D. Barkle, Oliver Clark
Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, exploits the Bond-style of cheesy melodrama as they belt out a selection of classic Bond theme-songs. Pic provided by Charlie D. Barkle productions.

Charlie D. Barkle has turned Bond iconography into a hilarious cabaret. Bond is a perfect choice for comic stand-up and cabaret send-up, known for its 'cheesiness', jargon-clichés, over-styled 'sleek' and theme-classic hits. Charlie and Oliver Clark have a talent for making 'unsexy' funny and engage audiences who may or may not be Bond fans with over-sell and their improvisatory brilliance. Charlie D. Barkle, who is a classically trained opera singer, and Oliver Clark, who undersells himself as 'lounge-room-discovered vocalist', combine to belt-out Bond hits that are musically manicured and spliced with tongue-in-check melodrama. Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond is a smart and intricately researched show, incorporating parody, trivia and improvisatory banter to create a thoroughly entertaining performance tale from beginning to end.

Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Charlie D. Barkle, Oliver Clark
Oliver Clark and Charlie D. Barkle combine to create a light, over-the-top and tongue-in-cheek cabaret that dramatises James Bond. Pic provided by Charlie D. Barkle productions.
Shaken wholeheartedly deserves the accolades that it has already received, which is why it continues to be invited as part of Fringe and other festivals throughout Australia. As part of this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, Shaken enjoyed a 4-night season at The Butterfly Club. In 2015, it was nominated for 'My Exotic World from the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and nominated in both 2016 for Best Cabaret and 2017 for a Green Room Award. Already boasting longevity in excess 3 years and yet to expire, Shaken was the 2014 winner of Mr Boylesque Australia and won the Ballarat Cabaret Award from Melbourne Fringe in 2016.

An outstanding feature of Shaken is Charlie's attention to detail: dogged research has gone into his upbeat creation. The singers' voice control and timbre is excellent, both singers 'nailing' Bond-style. Compositionally, the Bond theme is captivating and complete - even when Oliver and Charlie are not 'in character', they totally inhabit the Bond brand. Both performers exude warmth and generosity, 'shaking' Bond into the 21st Century while 'stirring' cinematic and musical nostalgia.

Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Charlie D. Barkle, Oliver Clark
Shaken is a real winner. You don't have to be Bond fan to love this show- it's just plain fun. Pic provided by Charlie D. Barkle productions

To convert James Bond into a cabaret is obvious and yet masterful: its over-styled melodrama and 'villainess plots' are story fodder to be milked. As a person who has seen a few Bond movies over the years and has been witness to its' need to' and 'lack of reaction to a changing socio-political climate, I was impressed with the honesty and even subtlety behind Shaken. Barkle balanced a precarious layer by holding up a series of distorted mirrors to reflect Bond history, enabling modern audiences to see 'the funny side' of Bond movies themselves simply because they do 'play it straight', when everything about them is politically unsound, transparent and so over-the-top. Shaken manages to turn a dated a 20th Century character into an ageless caricature, re-recording and re-writing perceptive history.

Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Charlie D. Barkle, Oliver Clark
Writer Charlie D. Barkle highlights the ridiculousness of Bond and yet is still respectful of the brand that has spanned 50 years. Pic provided by Charlie D. Barkle productions.
Compiled in a one-hour show, it was uplifting to hear the Bond hits, which have become classics because they are such great songs, sung by great musicians of their time (e.g., Madonna, Chris Cornell and KD Lang). The musical chronicles tell their own story, summarising each movie and turning the Bond-genre cinematic legacy into stereo-sound. Shaken opened with a dynamic Bassey medley of 'Diamonds are Forever', 'Goldfinger' and 'Moonraker' which Charlie imitated down to the nasal tones for which Shirley Bassey is known. Oliver followed with 'Thunderball' (Tom Jones), a performance that was also Bond-authentic. Other tracks included: 'The Spy Who Loved Me' (Carly Simon), 'For Your Eyes Only' (Sheena Easton) 'The World Is Not Enough' (Garbage) and most recently, Adele's 'Skyfall'. Paul McCartney and Wings got the thumbs down for 'Live and Let Die' and consequently given no airplay, while Tina Turner's, 'Golden Eye' was heartily celebrated in full baritone glory. Oliver and Charlie, honoured the vocal class of these divas and stars, and gave the songs comedic twist: clumsy over-styled silhouettes framed the centre stage vocalist who made the song so 'unsexy' that it became riotous mayhem. All the while, the essence of the Bond musical style was clear- each hit has a 'smoky cabaret club' feel which is a must-have backdrop for international tuxedo spies. Charlie and Oliver hammed-it-up, camped-it-up and cranked-it-up.

Answering the Age-Old Question

Which 007 ranks as No. 1 is a lingering question laden with subjectivity and generational bias. Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond inter-dispersed the musical numbers with 'game show' style of sketch comedy, which provided the opportunity to fire Bond trivia. Charlie and Oliver were armed with a dodgy alga-rhythm that scored each Bond on their ability to fulfil archetypal 'Bond criteria'. However, Bond loyalty, it seems, is 'unshakable' and the audience has the casting vote. A totally fun part of the show, it not only showed Barkle's dogged commitment to research, but also the onstage rapport between Oliver and Charlie and their ability to work-off the audience. Oliver Clark, whose background is in stand-up comedy, was particularly receptive to audience voice. As cabaret improvisation performers, I do not hesitate in saying that this duo's genuine ability to roll-with-the-punches' and feed-off the audience is second-to-none. Charlie and Oliver keep the energy high and the laughs rolling.

Shaken is a masterful cabaret which, judged on the triple threats of musicality, improvisation and information-entertainment is exquisitely crafted and superbly delivered. Charlie and Oliver excel as well-rounded cabaret performers. Compositionally, or rather the choices that Charlie has made as a writer, is another reason why this show is so award-worthy. Shaken's outstanding elements are the vocal abilities of these in-character baritones and their comedic detail. Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, is a genuine feel-good, interactive Bond-branded cabaret which may just transcend time.

Shaken: Baritones Belting Bond, The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Charlie D. Barkle, Oliver Clark
Shaken is first-rate original cabaret, written and produced by Charlie D. Barkle and performed by Charlie and Oliver Clark. Pic provided by Charlie D. Barkle productions.

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*Donna Sue Robson was invited as a guest
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Why? For information
When: 8.30pm
Where: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Off Little Collins Street Melbourne
Cost: $32 full price $28 concession
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