Occasional Suburban Witch is a masterstroke of performance, and rightly so. If anything less was served up by the likes of these three performers, something would have needed to have gone seriously wrong. It focuses loosely on a single concept, presenting a homage to the urban myths and legends: the occasional suburban witches of the western suburbs of Melbourne. Use of local iconography pulls the audience into the performance and there is strong sense of not only fun and playfulness here, but resonance, too. Creator Benn Bennett is joined by none other than Sarah Ward and Bec Mathews, who are more widely known as Yana Alana and band leader of Tha Paranas respectively.
This trio is as close to celestial embodiments of spell casters and sorcery as they are close to performative perfection. A mix of both original songs and covers are reimagined in this beautifully constructed hour-long work. The words penned by Bennett are loaded with humour and laced with a sweetness that is hard to describe, perhaps due to the work addressing its concept like a metaphor. Behind this work, if we delve deeper, this is about the female energy, goddess and legend. What makes this performance all the more exciting is the sense of intimacy afforded to the Butterfly Club; it’s really special to share such a small space with three such strong performers.
Mathews flexes her artistic and percussive muscles by taking pasta, cooking utensils and other kitchen paraphernalia to create some serious rhythm while Ward lifts the roof with the most beautiful cover of Rhiannon. The timeless quality of her voice transcends this song, originally made famous by Fleetwood Mac back in 1975. These three share a genuine sense of connection and their charisma makes for something lively and entertaining.
Bennett entertains as both musician and host, engaging with the audience throughout the performance. Demonstrating his skill in coaxing and creating audience energy to guide his performance narrative, Bennett asks for input from the audience before seguing into discussion about dream meanings. He knows when to engage and how to stop audience input from derailing the performance while maintaining the playful energy he constructs.
It’s a low-fi production, and it really doesn’t need to be anything more. In its stripped and pared back nature, what emerges is the truth in plain sight: the talent of these three performers. Fresh, vibrant and a little bit sexy, Occasional Suburban Witch is a fun, playful and joyous romp. It’s highly original, beautifully aesthetic, and deserving of its acclaim.