Yana Alana: Bold and Blue

Yana Alana BTC Publicity 3_ Image Peter LeslieThe outrageous Yana Alana arrives in Perth this month for Fringe World. The singer takes to the stage covered in blue paint for a performance that is distinctly unique.

Is there a challenge in pushing boundaries- knowing how far to push and when to stop?
Yeah there is actually. I think as long as I’m this character and as long as I’m framing everything in character its fine. I mean I wouldn’t call myself a comedian but as long as people are laughing, then they feel safe.

How would you describe yourself if you wouldn’t say comedian?
A cabaret artist. And by cabaret I mean someone who’s a provocateur and an agitator in many ways. So I’m not just interested in creating entertainment. Entertainment is the by product. So I’m interested in provoking people, positively. Posing questions and hopefully they go away and have a little think about where they sit with things… that’s what cabaret is for me. It’s not that for everybody, and I respect that but cabaret for me, I’m thinking more back to cabaret of the Weimar period when cabaret first sort of evolved. It’s a way to comment.

Cabaret seems to have had resurgence in the last couple of years. I don’t know if this is just in Perth because the Fringe World has had such a large impact or if it’s more widespread. I seem to see a lot more cabaret shows than I did a couple of years previously.
It does. I have no idea why. It’s the same as burlesque. But my question is- I don’t see a lot of burlesque, and a lot of cabaret unless I know what I’m about to see is more than just entertainment. I’m not so much interested in just seeing titties or hearing somebody sing a song I’ve heard before. If it’s going to be a song I’ve heard before it’s got to be done in a way that subverts it or makes me think about it differently. That’s just my taste, and therefore that’s the kind of art that I create too; the kind of art that I would go and see. Taylor Mac is one of my favourite cabaret artists. So he’s my kind of benchmark as a contemporary cabaret artist.

Taylor Mac was here about three years ago and did a really huge show. I remember he made a joke which made my heart skip a beat because it was hilariously funny but it was a little bit shocking. And I thought if that shocked me there’s probably some guy in the first row from suburbia who’s just had a coronary.
Absolutely. One of my main things is not provoking just to get a reaction. I’m not interested in just getting reactions. Because when people have a reaction, sometimes it can be really negative and then they shut down and stop listening. I’m really interested in inviting them in and then offering ideas. I mean some people wouldn’t call that gentle, being nude and covered in blue paint and singing about sexuality and mental health, but it is to me.

How do you get all that blue paint on? Do you have helpers?
I’m in process with this at the moment because I need to decide whether I’m going to move over to airbrushing which is still paint but I mean the suggestion was perhaps I could go to a body suit, like a bodystocking, but it wouldn’t be the same.

It wouldn’t be the same would it?
It just wouldn’t! Like when I opened at the Adelaide Feast recently, a woman reached out with her index finger and in the middle of my first song ran it down my leg, and then pulled her hand back and looked at her index finger! [Laughs] And then looked at me like I was a monster and that’s exactly what I want! And I also think that it creates a really lovely safety zone for me because I know nobody’s gonna touch me because if they do they’re covered in blue paint. Some people do, but yeah. I feel a lot safer with the blue paint on than I would with a body stocking. And it also fades away and gets literally in between the cracks, so I fall apart and I think that that’s a beautiful thing to watch somebody melting.

With February in Perth, there’s a good chance!
I have melted. It doesn’t come off it just drips, do you know what I mean? I’m always covered.

What’s it like having that big hair on?
Fun I feel like a rockstar. Yeah I mean I guess that’s the greatest protection for me when I think about it. I feel liberated onstage with this blue wig and this blue on. I’m a character. And I’m a character that loves herself. I am free, really.

‘Between the Cracks’ featuring Yana Alana and a Pirana is playing at The Western Australian Speigeltent from 20-23 of February.

Graeme Watson, image: Peter Leslie