Adelaide Fringe 2017 Cabaret Review: Nigella – Love Bites

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 10.42.19 pmRaelene Isbester as Nigella Lawson

What: Nigella – Love Bites

Where: Spiegel Zelt at Gluttony 

Nigella taught me how to roast my first chicken. Nigella showed me how to bake my first cake. Nigella instructed me to never shy away from butter. Nigella made it socially acceptable to snack on steak past midnight in my pyjamas. Nigella makes life infinitely more pleasurable.

As you can tell, I carry quite the admiration for the grand dame of no-fuss English culinary cuisine, Nigella Lawson. On television, she hypnotises viewers with her alluring personality and sharp wit, using her fingers instead of cooking utensils. Raelene Isbester brings Nigella’s life lessons, sparkling spirit, vivacious sexuality, and personal woes to life in her entertaining cabaret act, Nigella – Love Bites.

Isbester’s introductory singing numbers signal the comic tone of her bawdy show. Belting out “I would have a whale of a time if I could soak my skin in wine”, Isbester depicts Nigella as a hedonistic drunk who knows how to have a good time with food. After deep-throating a banana, Isbester brings a game male volunteer onstage as her sous chef. Teaching him how to “masterbash”, “masterstuff”, “mastershake”, and “masterbake” (all variants of hammering foods), Isbester is a delight with her sexy, salacious puns.

The controversial behind-the-scenes calamities in Nigella Lawson’s seemingly serene life are chronicled through heartfelt songs (“always carry hot sauce”). Isbester channels an honest vulnerability as she lists the recent tragedies in her life: her drug use, the Grillo sisters’ disloyalty, and her ex-husband’s violent temper. With only the tawdry tabloids to tell us of these devastating accounts, it was refreshing and hugely emotional witnessing her confessional, musical monologue.

Closing her act with the jaunty tune “Life is better with pleasure” whilst throwing chocolates to audience members, Nigella – Love Bites ends on a positive and upbeat note. Despite a shaky start, the show successfully finds the balance between obscene and sombre, thanks to Isbester’s ability to channel the polar extremes of the emotional scale in a manner that was respectful to the forever iconic, and perpetually poised,  Nigella Lawson.   

3 out of 5 stars

– Masya Zabidi

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