Anyone who’s seen Melbourne kamikaze cabaret diva Yana Alana in action will no doubt have laughed at the sight of her tormenting her long-suffering backing band, the Paranas.
However, most wouldn’t have realised that Yana — aka Sarah Ward — has been in a relationship with Parana Bec Matthews for the past three years.
Now, for the first time, the couple have agreed to be interviewed together, exclusively for Sydney Star Observer.
The pair met when they were both working at the Women’s Circus in Melbourne, and Ward soon employed Matthews’ extensive talents as a percussionist, acrobat and clown in her own act.
“It sort of makes sense that we work together. We’ve recently been working on separate projects, and we kind of each get sucked into what the other’s working on anyway,” Matthews said.
“But the word ‘painless’ doesn’t come to mind. It can be really draining on the relationship. There are times when she has to ask me to leave Yana at the door,” Ward continued.
“Sometimes I think there are three of us in the relationship,” Matthews chuckled. “Yana leaves her stuff around the house a lot more than Sarah.”
The creative partnership seems to be working — Ward’s comic creation has garnered her a swag of industry awards down south. Her show Bite Me won Best Cabaret Artiste 2009 and Best Director 2008 at the Green Room Awards, and Best Cabaret Award at Melbourne’s 2007 Fringe Festival. Meanwhile, a trying stint in last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival confirmed Ward’s feeling that she’s more comfortable classifying herself as a cabaret artist, rather than a comedian.
“I’ve written a song called Mr Funny, which is about men in the comedy industry. It’s basically saying, ‘If I could, I would cook you and eat you’,” said Ward, who has used Yana to rail against an industry she feels is dominated by straight white men whose jokes trade in misogyny and homophobia.
“And people love it,” sighed Matthews. “That’s what was the biggest shock when we did the Comedy Festival — that these guys are so popular.”
“And they hate themselves, those comedians,” Ward said. “They’re not well people. I’m happy to be put in a box as a cabaret performer — it’s a much more healthy world. There’s only a space for me in comedy if I had a really thick skin, but I just don’t.
While Yana and co have been regulars on the cabaret circuit in Melbourne for several years now — the diva premiered an outstanding brand-new show, In Concert, at the Midsumma gay and lesbian festival last month — they’ve been veritable strangers to Sydneysiders thus far.
“Yana’s never been in Sydney before. It’s funny, Melbourne’s kind of been the womb of the show, people have got to see Yana in various stages. Now that’s she’s fully formed, we get to take our baby up to Sydney and show her off.”
info: Yana Alana and the Paranas in Bite Me, February 17-20 at the Red Rattler. Visit www.yanaalana.com