Friday, November 9, 2012

Street Two: Diva Sheila, the Eco-Diva

Kate Hosking is a very talented woman. Fabulous voice, great chops on a double bass, and gorgeous to boot. But this show just doesn't work.
There are three separate elements at work here, and they don't marry up. First is Hosking's "Diva Sheila" persona. Second is the script, and third are the songs interspersed throughout, in which Hosking accompanies herself (beautifully) on double bass.

The Diva persona is a puzzle. It seems to be intended as a kind of larger-than-life drag-type character who will allow Hosking to get away with some outrageousness, but there really isn't any material in the script that needs or benefits from that. And while Hosking looks ravishing in a slinky black evening dress with a dominatrix spiked leather collar and matching sky-high Louboutins, none of that matches the "Eco" image she was trying to create - actually the "Eco" thing was never adequately explained and ultimately went nowhere in particular.  Hosking would have done much better to discard "Sheila" and just been an exaggerated version of herself.

Another reason for that is that the stories she tells - varied and interesting, about her experiences as a folk musician in Europe - are clearly her own. They're not exaggerated, or hammed up for comic effect. They're perfectly worthwhile stories, and disowning them as the Diva's oddly detracts from their persuasiveness.

Finally, there are the songs, which as I've already said, are beautifully sung and performed. Hosking is magic on the bass and sings with a rich bluesy voice that reminded me a little, at times, of Michelle Shocked. But the choice of songs was another disconnect. The segues from anecdotes seemed slight and and forced, and several songs involved the adoption of additional personae (I Was Only Nineteen belongs to an older man; Strange Fruit is a black woman's song, and I'm uncomfortable with its appropriation, though obviously very well-intentioned). The songs seemed to be chosen for a sort of social justice edge, which might have gone with the purpose of the Diva, but wasn't often reflected in the stories leading into them.

I found Kate Hosking very likeable, and impressive, and I really wanted to like this show.  And this certainly wasn't the worst hour I've spent in a theatre. There's a lot to enjoy here, but it just doesn't all go together. If Hosking ditches the "Diva" and matches her songs to her stories, I'd go see her again in a heartbeat.

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