His new show may be called 'Bigger & Blacker', but perhaps Steven Oliver might consider a name change to 'Funny & Fabulous', so animated is he to discuss his upcoming appearance at La Boite (in Brisbane), appearing in a way you’ve never seen him before.
'Bigger & Blacker' is comedy cabaret at its best. Combining illicit stories, his signature jollity, and a wealth of musical numbers, Steven says this show differs from his past accolades in a big way. “I don’t think people have really seen me sing too much,” he says. “It’s all my original songs."
“It’s people seeing me as a singer-songwriter for the first time.”
There really is very little in Steven’s back catalogue where he’s had the opportunity to bring singing and hilarity together, which of course presents a few challenges when he turns his head to cabaret. “When we did the show in Adelaide, Michael [Griffiths] the Musical Director, said to me ‘We want to showcase you, solo’, I had this moment going, ‘Yeah this is the first moment people will ever actually hear my songs’.
“There was the thing of what people will think about these songs. Thankfully, it’s been humbling and overwhelming, the response.”
Steven actually credits Michael with making 'Bigger & Blacker' possible. “We’ve known each other for over half our lives – I was 22 years old when I first met Michael! He’s been someone I’ve bumped into over the years, whether it’s a pub in Brisbane or Edinburgh in Scotland. He travels the world doing cabaret shows.”
Image © Dylan Evans Photography
“I showed him some of the songs I’d written and next thing I know, he was speaking with the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and that’s where we first performed the show.”
Steven’s methods of taking the stories and anecdotes he’s telling in 'Bigger & Blacker' and applying them to a soundtrack came very naturally, he says. “They [the songs] correlate with events in my life.”
“Every song I’ve written has kind of been written around the time something has happened in my life, which makes it a bit of a lived experience, as well.
“When I was writing music for someone else, in a way too, I was writing songs for me. This time is basically not only the soundtrack of my life but the story of my life, so, I find the stories and songs together, it was a matter of picking which ones, really.”
Image © Dylan Evans Photography
Most know Steven as a comedian but given that this show will cover a very large chunk of his life, it won’t always be retelling times of sunshine and rainbows. That means there’s movement for Steven, not just as a performer but as a person sharing the highs and lows of his life, to allow for some poignant and moving moments – as well as naturally hysterical episodes. “I think life is kind of like struggle over pun, over struggle over pun, you know what I mean? Music will make you feel things in a [certain] way, it’s its own language.”
“I think, too, the stuff we’ll be talking about, whether it’s heartache or loving someone who didn’t love you back, we’ve all been through that, so that’s kind of my way of connecting with people.
“I sing a song where people might see a gay man sitting up there singing about his love for another man, but a straight man can identify in thinking about a woman, or a woman thinking about another woman.
“Everyone knows that feeling, that heartache I’m going through.”
'Bigger & Blacker' plays La Boite Theatre (Brisbane) 8-27 March.