Image courtesy of Raelene Isbester
I chatted over the phone with Raelene Isbester about her upcoming show about Nigella Lawson, and the reason for wanting to portray the loved domestic goddess. After a short introduction:
The Australia Times (TAT): So Raelene, I’ll start of just getting to know you.. where did you grow up?
Raelene Isbester: I grew up in country NSW in Orange. My parents owned the Huntly Berry Farm. When I saw 18 I moved to Mackay where I studied Musical Theatre at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of music. I moved to Melbourne straight after UNI.
TAT: What’s your performance life like?
RI: I do little cabaret groups, trios, and the auditioning circuit.
TAT: How would you describe yourself in three words?
RI: Oh gosh (laughs) oh that’s hard… I’d say I’m friendly, I’m goofy and loyal.
TAT: Can you speak any other languages?
RI: I can hold a conversation in Japanese. I worked at Disneyland In Tokyo, and did shows in Japanese as well as English. It was much better when I was over there, living there for a year you pick up a lot. Kind of disappears once you stop having to use lines everyday.
TAT: How do you spend your time now?
RI: Mostly I spend a lot of time at the theatre, going to see theatre, I’m enjoying bushwalking at the moment.
TAT: What inspires you creatively?
RI: Telling a story, strong female characters- that’s what I’m often drawn to. A story that’s going to be relatable to everybody. I like looking at strong characters and how they have gotten to be where they are.
TAT: When did you start performing?
RI: I did my first production with the Orange Theatre Company when I was five in the production of Annie. It was just wonderful because my grandfather and cousin were in it as well.
TAT: So is your family artistic?
RI: Most of my family is very sporty, but my grandfather sings and does a duet with his girlfriend who is 92. He just turned 90. He’s a bit of inspiration. I hope to be still be gigging in my nineties. He also tours through Europe.
TAT: That’s so cute… Okay, so tell us about the show, what’s it about?
RI: I’d say it’s a snapshot into the life of Nigella, taken with poetic license of course. It’s an insight into her life. A lighthearted look at Nigella. I’ve had a lot of people say to me that I look a lot like her. Someone suggested I do a cabaret about her. I’m interested by what makes this woman so interesting to everyone- she’s incredibly intelligent, really talented, quite inspiring to a lot of women at the same time really down to earth.
She is such a strong female character, that drew me to her story and how she has managed to bounce back from media tribulations. Everyone’s response when you mention her name is ‘I love her’ and I was intrigued to find out why. So I thought, ‘let’s see what we can explore in a 50 min show whilst making it entertaining and lighthearted.’
TAT: How long have you been developing it?
RI: We started developing it at the end of last year. I put together a 10 min version of the show at Short + Sweet Festival and went down for best cabaret, best performer, and the feedback was ‘I want to see more of the show’. Then I decided to perform at The Butterfly Club.
TAT: What’s your favourite sweet? I guess you cook a lot now?
RI: I’m a terrible cook. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t cook at all. But in doing this show I’ve spent a lot of time looking at recipes. I like to make Christmas rocky road, because you just bash stuff up and put it in a tin. I started exploring different recipes. I’ve added a few more strings to my bone. I certainly feel more confident in the kitchen than I did, I can look at a recipe.
Before this show, if someone said to me ‘you need to cook for a number of people’ I would have had to run away screaming. I was more nervous cooking for someone than singing. But no- one has to eat my cooking in the show, no-one will get food poising (laughs)
TAT: So the show is comedic?
RI: It’s lighthearted. Hopefully a funny look at a day in the life of Nigella.
TAT: Do you get nervous before shows?
RI: Oh yes definitely, but what’s so great about this character is she’s so wonderfully delicious. She feels like having a nice cup of hot chocolate.
TAT: What has been your greatest accomplishment (career or otherwise)
RI: Well I think actually, wow, okay, something that I’m quite proud of… This show really. This is my first time writing a show. I’ve always performed in other peoples shows and other peoples work. It’s been such an interesting process, I’ve learnt a lot and I’m continuing to learn a lot. It’s been a really good challenge- something I’ve never done before.
TAT: What’s been your favourite performance moment in your career?
RI: When I was working in Tokyo- singing in another language with an American accent- an odd thing to be doing. Just trying to communicate your performance singing a duet with Jeese from toy story and keeping a straight face. This little kid comes up to me and keep asking for the toilet, just trying to answer him whilst keeping up the performance.
TAT: Last question: why should people see this show?
RI: If you’re after an entertaining, lighthearted hour, where you can sit back and have a little bit of a chuckle this show is for you. It’s comedic, delicious, lighthearted with fantastic music. It feels like having a really nice red with good friends. Something that’s going to warm you up inside whilst being in the company of friends.
You can see Raelene’s lightheated musical comedy about Nigella Lawson at The Butterfly Club:
When: 12th-17th July
Information: Butterfly Club members get $1 off all drinks, regular offers of discounted (or free) tickets, access to members-only events and a pretty card that fits right in your wallet.