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Sunday 11 October 2015

Yana Alana’s queer, bare cabaret

Posted in: Performance
By Jacqui Stanford - 24th August 2015

Australian cabaret artist Sarah Ward has brought her on stage alter-ego Yana Alana to New Zealand and will perform at the Auckland International Cabaret Season next week. We find out a bit more about the performer and her titillating show. 

Yana Alana is the alter-ego of Aussie Sarah Ward

Tell me about the character, Yana Alana, where did she come from and how would you sum her up?

Yana was created at DragKings and at queer clubs in Melbourne where character work was encouraged and taking risks and playing was a part of the culture. Yana was born at these nights from my desire to express opinions without apology, to present my body without inhibition and to give myself a platform to sing.

I think Yana is a self-obsessed, tragic and heroic bouffant who is and always will be searching for herself whilst at the same time knowing exactly what she thinks and not being afraid to say it! She is my demented diva drag creation and I love her!

Is she completely different from Sarah Ward?

She is all of my dysfunctions exaggerated and all of the self- confidence I wish I had.

What made you decide to wear body paint on stage? And does it also allow you to be more metaphorically ‘bare’ in your performances?

I wrote an opening song called 'I'm Blue' which is about depression and nudity. I had a chat with designer Adrienne Chisholm and director Anni Davey about being nude for the song and it was decided Yana should be covered in blue body paint, for the entire show. This makes her vulnerable, naked, bare, exposed. It's really important for the show and calls on a generosity from the audience which gives the sense that we are all in it together.

It's Adrienne Chisholm’s design but my partner Bec Matthews comes on tour as stage manager and applies and removes the paint, the latter being less fun. She does a beautiful job.

Do you prefer the venues you perform in to be well heated?!

Actually the paint doesn't allow for my body to breathe so I get extremely hot, especially because I double wig. I prefer cold.

How has performing helped you cope with depression and anxiety?

Keeping a sense of humour keeps me stable, this show is a lot about Yana's struggles with her mental health. I've been able to make light of my own ongoing issues by expressing them through my character. Also, performing regularly reminds me that, regardless of whether I'm having a good or bad day, the show must go on and this is a metaphor for life.

I’ve read your performances are also about your sexual identity, how so?

I have a song in this show called 'You're sexuality ain't your identity' It's about the fact that people can make all sorts of assumptions about the way you vote, what type of sex you have, who you're attracted to, what paper you read, whether you're racist or not etc, all based on your sexuality. However Yana says 'Some of the straightest people I know are gay and some of the queerest people I know are straight'. Sexuality is separate, fluid, changing, morphing and surprising.

Overall, what do you hope people take from your shows?

You are not alone, we are all connected. Our differences, our dysfunctions, they're a part of who we are, we should accept and celebrate them. As Leonard Cohen says 'There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in'.

YANA ALANA performs BETWEEN THE CRACKS as part of the Auckland International Cabaret Season, Friday 4 September 6.00pm & Saturday 5 September, 10pm. More here

Jacqui Stanford - 24th August 2015

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