Audiences and critics have run out of superlatives to describe this doyenne of Australian cabaret. She is fearless and peerless. She is Yana Alana. *mic drop*
Mike McLeish speaks with Yana’s creator, Helpmann Award Winner Sarah Ward.
Mike: When you hear a song for the first time, do you know instantly whether or not you'd like to interpret and perform it, or do certain songs creep up on you over time?
Sarah: Sometimes I'll know straight away, other times it will be because I've heard the lyrics to a song for the first time properly. It's all about the lyrics because it's got to seem as if Yana wrote the song herself.
Mike: For your latest show, Covered, how did you go about whittling down what must've been a very long list of songs that you wanted to include?
Sarah: The songs have to serve to further explain Yana, her politics, her mental state, her conflicts and her beliefs. So the songs choose Yana.
Mike: Your band, Tha Paranas, is a musical force all their own. How did you go about developing arrangements for the songs you chose to perform?
Sarah: We always have Yana in mind, so we might arrange for drama rather than beauty, or sense rather than style or arrange the song to highlight lyrics so it seems the words have burst out of Yana's subconscious.
Mike: What maintains your hunger to keep creating and performing?
Sarah: I have things to say, I want to celebrate the LGBTIQ community, to unite people in their difference, to fight the church of capitalism, to fight the patriarchy and have a lot of fun doing it.
Mike: Your ability to bypass bullshit and seemingly mainline this remarkable essence of authenticity is a worthy trademark. Are you ever surprised by what comes out of your mouth on stage?
Sarah: Rarely. Most of what I say has been carefully considered for the reason that I am naturally the kind of person who says what they think without thinking. I have a responsibility on stage to keep the audience safe whilst also saying what I want to say. I want to be sure the only person in the room feeling uncomfortable is the stubborn bigot in the corner.