The Garden of Unearthly Delights is now open for business as the Adelaide Fringe Festival launches into action for another mad season.

And what better way to celebrate SA’s favourite time of year than with a cabaret show by the incomparable, fabulous and exquisitely bouffant clown, Yana Alana?

Sarah Ward as Yana Alana.
Sarah Ward as Yana Alana.

Starring in her new show, Between the Cracks, which sees her dressed only in blue body paint and glitter, Yana Alana tells us how she slipped between the cracks and came out the other side.

Played by Helpmann Award winning actress Sarah Ward, Yana Alana’s Between the Cracks promises a night of blues, burlesque and blame where Yana opens up and bares all – quite literally – through song, eccentric dance, poetry and tantrums.

Melbourne based actress Sarah Ward is excited to be returning to Adelaide and introducing the Fringe Festival to Yana and vice versa.

“I’ve never done the Adelaide Fringe as Yana Alana. I’m excited to perform, not just to the Adelaide locals but to all the people who come to Adelaide for the Festival. There’s so many artists and crew who come to Adelaide because it’s one of the biggest festivals in the world. There’s going to be some incredible people in town. I’m looking forward to performing for everyone,” she says.

Although Yana Alana is making her debut at this year’s Festival, Sarah Ward has a wealth of experience under her belt.

“I studied acting in Sydney but when I graduated, I decided I didn’t want to be an actor and I found myself in a hip hop cabaret act called Sista She. We toured around and went to Adelaide a fair bit. We had a bit of a fan base in Adelaide which was nice,” she says.

“I created Yana Alana in Melbourne about seven years ago and won quite a few awards for her, which was great. Then I joined Circus Oz for two years. After that, I created this show, and it won me a Helpmann Award and two Greenroom awards and I’m really happy about that. It’s my first big tour as Yana Alana so I’m very excited.”

Yana Alana was born out of Sarah’s desire to go further with her creative arts and to express her lack of satisfaction with the current happenings in government and society.

“Coming out of hip hop cabaret, I really wanted to use my voice; I wanted to sing and I wanted to write songs. So out of that yearning, and displeasure at the government and at society in general, and what was considered normal, and the push for a homogenising of cultures – like this idea of what is male, what is female, what is gay, what is straight, what is white and what is normal and what is abnormal – made me want to create a character that blurs those lines,” she says.

As well as being a protest against societal ‘norms’, Between The Cracks was created from Sarah’s state of mind at the time.

“It was where felt emotionally; I felt as though I’d fallen between the cracks in many ways. I premiered it at Midsumma Festival in Melbourne at a really great underground venue called The Substation in Melbourne’s west and it sold out. It’s evolved a lot since then, in that I’m confident in the show now. I’m not as anxious as I was. There’s something very nerve racking about appearing on stage just in blue paint and it’s exposing content as well,” she says.

Compared to her previous Yana Alana shows, Sarah says this one is a little different as it also reflects her very recent battle, and subsequent victory, with cancer.

“In the other Yana shows, she’s fabulous and a diva extraordinaire, but in this show, she’s a bit more vulnerable. In this one, Yana is a little bit depressed, she’s a little bit anxious and she goes on a journey. As she falls apart, she comes together, so you see all the paint coming off and you see all the bedazzles falling off her and at the very end, she’s singing a song by Leonard Cohen called ‘Anthem’ where the chorus is: “There’s a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in” so there’s something about her accepting who she is, accepting her dysfunctions and letting go,” she says.

“Humans are really strong, and for me, the main thing [after battling cancer] that was getting to me was my anxiety and my fear. Anxiety is debilitating and if you can get on top of it then you can get on top of how you feel about things in your life. I am inspired by people who are able to pull themselves through those things with dignity and without being riddled with terror; controlling everything they can control and letting go of things they can’t. That’s the kind of person I’d like to be.”

And indeed, that is exactly the kind of person Sarah Ward is; Yana Alana, however, is the total opposite, which Sarah says gives the audience a chance to connect with her and have a laugh at her expense, and their own.

“Yana Alana blames everyone!” she laughs. “She’s not accountable for her own feelings and that’s why she’s so funny, because she’s really outspoken and preachy, because she reads self-help books, and she’s so self-obsessed and dysfunctional. People can identify things in Yana within themselves which makes them laugh at themselves. It’s really fun and I love the show.”

The multilayered show, which uses music, dance and metaphor to celebrate the fabulous Yana Alana’s journey, is set to entice, confront and excite.

Choosing to perform completely naked, aside from blue body paint, is a decision Sarah says came easily within the context of the show.

“I made the decision to do it because it made so much sense theatrically. The very first song is called, ‘I’m Blue’ and it’s Yana talking about depression. Also, Blue Shows are nude shows so it’s “I’m naked, I’m depressed.” When I wrote that song, I spoke with my designer and I said I would start the show naked and she said, ‘No let’s go even more literal than that and have you in blue paint’ and it just made so much sense,” she says.

“It’s made to look like a body suit, so some people think she’s wearing a very, very tight-fitting, see-through body-stocking; but it is, indeed, body paint. And there’s a lot of me so I don’t think people are used to seeing other people’s naked bodies on stage unless they’re very, very fit so I think it’s comforting for a lot of people because there’s a bit of wobble!”

For a night of blues, laughs and climactic aural pleasure with a deliciously histrionic diva, check out Yana Alana’s Between The Cracks – it’ll crack you up.

presented by Strut & Fret Production House
LIMITED SEASON: February 13 to March 1, 2015
The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Deluxe
Tickets from $35.
Tickets and further info: www.adelaidefringe.com.au or 1300 621 255 or www.gardenofunearthlydelights.com.au

By Libby Parker
Photo courtesy of Sarah Ward