Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: An Intimate Evening with Tabitha Booth, Frankie McNair, Adelaide Fringe 2024 ★★★★☆

In a rundown tent in Adelaide’s The Garden of Unearthly Delights a faded star, by the name of Tabitha Booth, attempts to make her great comeback…

Unfortunately, the gods are not on her side: her name appears in broken lights, the audio cuts out, she can’t afford the props necessary for her raunchy cabaret numbers, and her earnest stage manager undercuts her artistic authenticity by reminding her to mention the sponsors and sell the merchandise. The comeback is a spectacular failure, but an evening in the company of McNair’s deranged starlet is a delight.

In the social media age where perfection is the priority, Frankie McNair’s Tabitha Booth routine presents a welcome reminder that stardom is a messy and unglamorous business. The character of Booth made her name with cabaret performances for the troops, dancing as an olive in a martini glass, and a TV show starring her and an extendable fork.

The fork, and the ridicule it prompts, understandably haunts her now as do her dancing days. Any mention of the word tap has her breaking out in a dance despite a pelvis injury many years ago. Like any quintessential Hollywood star of the 50s pills, alcohol and tobacco fuel her performance, but so too does a need to be seen. Booth, like all of us, is just a little confused about how to be the person she wants the world to see.

An inspired element of McNair’s storytelling is her inclusion of a black and white interview tape of Booth at the height of her fame. Played at the opening of the show and later as part of the denouement, the tape does an important job in grounding Booth’s character. A young and beautiful Booth speaks in circles about the importance of doing something and the vulnerability of performance.

Hope, and youth, and a certain amount of sadness shine through in this Booth, contrasting the manic desperation of the Booth we see on stage. Tabitha Booth is a character that could be found in the pages of a Tennessee Williams tragedy: delusional, vulnerable and very beautiful she is reminiscent of characters like Alexandra Del Lago and Blanche DuBois.

An outrageous dance routine, a haunting and a crisis of confidence later, McNair flirts with a tragic ending for the eponymous Tabitha Booth. Stripped of dress and delusion does she have the courage to go on with the performance from hell? She does. She still has her pants, she still has a dream and she still has her stage manager. What could possibly go wrong? Or right?

Crazy and confronting, An Intimate Evening with Tabitha Booth, is both a comedy and a heartfelt celebration of artists everywhere.

Recommended Drink: A dry martini garnished with an olive – to be drunk in support of Booth’s hilarious dance number.

Catch An Intimate Evening with Tabitha Booth until 17th March. Tickets can be purchased through the Adelaide Fringe Box Office.

Eilidh McKenzie

Eilidh is a writer, reader and avid watcher of film, television and theatre. She loves writing that blends comedy with darkness, and makes public the quirks of life and character that we've been taught to hide. She also aspires to be fluent in Spanish, but so far this has proved far harder than expected.

Festivals: Adelaide Fringe (2024) , Prague Fringe (2024), EdFringe (2024)
Pronouns: She/Her