Dead-set fun at NPG with Shortis and Simpson

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IF there’s something that comedy cabaret duo Shortis and Simpson really appreciate, it’s a good pun and their new show “Songs to Die For” give them ample scope for indulgence in that respect.

Shortis and Simpson
Shortis and Simpson

The die is cast, they’re saying, in a show they’ve dreamed up to accompany the National Portrait Galley’s exhibition “Sideshow Alley: infamy, the macabre & the portrait”.

Billed as a musical exploration of society’s morbid fascination with criminals and death, it should be a perfect match for this exhibition featuring all things ghoulish.

Composer John Shortis is not ashamed to boast that he’s approached the selection of songs with his usual ‘rigor Shortis,’ digging up songs of convicts and pickpockets and murderers at the National Library of Australia and adding in his own original songs of terror and torture and death like “The Widow of Windsor [Queen Victoria] is Mourning” and “Alexander Pearce” (about a notorious cannibal-convict).

Shortis’ partner in crime is as usual songstress Moya Simpson, who boasts of having ‘exhumed’ music hall gems that relive the humour and tunefulness of the time,  breathing  life into folk songs of convicts and bushrangers like “The Streets of Forbes” [Ben Hall] and “Poor Ned” [Kelly].

In short, Shortis and Simpson are helping the NPG with its seasonal night-time opening by weaving together songs and stories intend to “slay you in the aisles.” You’ll die laughing, they say.

“Songs To Die For,” at the National Portrait Gallery, 6-7pm Fridays Jan 22/29, Free. No bookings required.

Sideshow Alley: infamy, the macabre and the portrait”, at the National Portrait Gallery, until Sunday, February 28, Monday – Sunday, 10-5pm.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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