I wanted to like They Say She’s Different, I truly did. And I think had I possibly been a bigger fan of Betty Davis and musicians from her era, I would have enjoyed this show immensely. I can say without a doubt, that my dad would have found this performance tremendous. I however, can only say I found it fairly enjoyable.
That being said, there is nothing I can say against the performers and musicians. The band as the famous Chamber Brothers are phenomenal in combining stage antics with music, encompassing their characters entirely in every moment. This show uses every cast member effectively, those filming the show (more on that later) and controlling lights and sound are referred to from the beginning while in character. Every cast and crew member is always in character, and deliver the audience to Davis’ time and the incredible atmosphere she brought to everything.
Cecilia Low as Davis is sublime, as the writer and producer of the production it is clear Low has a deep love of Betty Davis, this love showing through in the indistinguishable way she portrays the famous idol. When on stage, Low is Davis, her movements and voice all carefully rehearsed to mimic Davis explicitly.
The use of film throughout the production is a stroke of genius. The film crew get in close during musical numbers, with close ups of the musicians cleverly enlarged over the back of the stage. The films that play projected over the back of the stage are also fantastic, Low breaking into a matching song and walking us through historic moments in musical history that Davis was involved within.
The show was clearly written with audience participation in mind, with members of the band encouraging us to sing along and clap our hands, and Low at the end of the show telling us multiple times to come down and dance with her. I didn’t have enough drinks in me, but I can imagine that on a Friday or Saturday, when everyone’s had a few drinks, the floor of the stage will be filled with eager dancers.
The entire show is a musical biography of Betty Davis, to put it simply. But it really is so much more than that. It is a well-thought, well-written and well-acted performance combining music with history and the influence of a very strong woman. It’s all the better if you’re a fan of Betty Davis.
They Say She’s Different plays at Gasworks Arts Park for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. For more information and for tickets, head to the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.