Pros: Smart songs with a bittersweet edge and a sharp performance from the talented Tanya Holt.
Cons: Exaggerated operatic phrasing can be a tad annoying.
Tanya Holt bills herself as a singer, composer, producer and educator working in the cabaret and musical theatre genres. That sounds fairly comprehensive, but doesn’t begin to tell the whole story as she visits stand-up, poetry, song and confessional-inspired monologue in a highly entertaining 90-minute performance. Ably assisted by Birgitta Kenyon on piano, Tanya has the perfect setting at the Jermyn Street Theatre, where she can interact with a close, tightly-packed audience. A simple stage is complemented by a video screen that helps to illustrate each song and give the show an ethereal, atmospheric quality. The inspiration is Tanya’s burgeoning relationship with Dottie, her 11-year-old daughter, and all the things she wants her to know.
Act One opener, the wryly-observed song ‘Don’t Do It My Way’, draws inspiration from the Victoria Wood song book, while ‘Bad Tattoo’ pays homage to Kate Bush and instantly-regrettable body art. Tanya breaks the songs down with short conversational pieces in which she talks frankly about her life, which is always moving and often very funny. The audience were involved at every opportunity, as members of the front row poured her a glass of wine and created DIY effects by fanning her. The songs are generally well-crafted and expertly-performed, although Tanya and Birgitta (also known as Fred) tortured some songs with an operatic precision that seemed unnecessary. That minor trifle aside, they were tuneful and harmonised well. Act One closed with a song improvised from comments received at a previous show. At another point, audience members were asked what advice they would have given to their younger selves, leading to a hilarious run down of mostly unprintable awkward moments, the cleanest being ‘two for one cocktails don’t mean you can drink twice as much’ (how true!).
The second half of the show threw aside whimsy to explore the darker side of life and the human condition. Thoughtful, hard-hitting songs came thick and fast with tales about yo-yo dieting, heavy drinking and abusive relationships. ‘Red Flag Flying’ is a particularly beautiful song dealing with life’s greatest contradiction, ‘Little Grey Hair’ is a defiant rejection of the ageing process, while ‘Arabella’s Indiscretions’ is a rhyming monologue warning how social media can ruin people’s lives.
Overall, Tanya Holt proves herself a versatile, talented and likeable entertainer. Her original songs give her a massive edge over many cabaret performers, who rely on half-baked cover versions. Her observations are grounded in reality and add power to the songs – definitely one to watch.
Written and Performed by: Tanya Holt
Director: Robin Kingsland
Piano and Backing Vocals: Birgitta Kenyon
Animation: Vincent Kilbride, Shane Simms and Charlotte Holt
Videography: Vesna Krebs
Producer: Fair Warning in association with Jermyn Street Theatre
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking Link: http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/cautionary-tales-daughters/
Booking Until: 11 February 2017