By Anoka Latchmiah
Lead singer and Festival regular Kerry Hiles, walks onto the Thomas Pringle stage in a costume befitting a young Amy Winehouse, before her ubiquitous beehive and Cleopatra winged liner. In true cabaret fashion, Hiles shares contextual anecdotes about the jazz paragon’s life, woven together through the late artist’s familiar tunes.
Amy Winehouse The Diva and her Demons is a performance of duality. Her infectious wit and skillful writing have led to the artist’s international acclaim within the space of a brief career.
Kristo Zondagh on drums alongside guitarist, Kurt Slabbert, accompany Hiles, making for a lively celebration of an artist who changed the way we look at musicians. Though, Hiles stumbles in her delivery of a spoken word segment, she swiftly recovers with Slabbert nodding in support.
The performance is earnest and doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of Winehouse’s life. As was the case with her own music, love interests and personal relationships form a significant part of the material. Naturally, the performance strongly highlights the singer’s battle with alcohol and drug addiction – although some scenes of a drunken Winehouse feel crude in their portrayal.
A valued portion of the performance was Hiles’ engagement with the audience. There were songs which required participation from the audience to clap to the beat. Audience engagement such as this allows for the audience to feel comfortable and a part of the show.
Hiles brilliantly changes between accents throughout the performance, making it feel as though it was indeed Winehouse reincarnated on stage. Aside from a few minor issues, this performance is an authentic ode to one of the greatest musicians of our time.
Amy Winehouse The Diva and her Demons is on at Thomas Pringle Hall, Monument, until 25 June.