On stage, Sophie Banister languishes like a period-drama heroine with a delicate constitution, draped over a chaise longue, gowned in white, hand to forehead. The young musical comedian, a rising star of Brisbane’s cabaret scene, is here to inspire us to embrace strong emotion, non-guilty pleasure, the joys of yearning – anything, in short, that makes us swoon.

Banister knows her audience. Swoon is marketed towards “the modern woman”: “overwhelmed”, “iron-deficient”, and, I would add, chronically online. References to “entering my villain era”, dating app woes, and the elusive promises of the “curly girl method” will strike a chord with those who lurk in the same corners of the internet as Banister does. Others may find some of the punchlines more obscure.

Even Banister’s dress could be a replica of that found on the iconic cover of Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2018 portrait of female ennui, My Year of Rest and Relaxation – a trending item on TikTok feeds in recent years.

Her songs are largely odes to the joys and sorrows of young womanhood, scattered with references to Colin Firth, Greta Gerwig, and ’90s rom-coms. Her dating app piece done in the style of Taylor Swift, another charting the difficulty for women of having doctors believe their symptoms, and a ballad of lost love between a wavy-armed balloon woman and car salesman, are particularly funny.

Others – vaguer in subject, or less obviously connected to the show’s theme – are less engaging. Still, Banister is a consistently strong vocalist, able to control her voice for comic effect. The music is varied and enjoyable in its own right while being a tool for parody. There are sultry lounge numbers, musical-theatre showstoppers, and violin melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Regency ballroom.

Banister is a multi-instrumentalist and for many songs she creates layered compositions from scratch with her loop pedal. This gadget is responsible for a few technical mishaps, but she is able to play them off as all part of the fun.

She throws in some good visual gags, too, such as coughing like a TB patient into large handkerchiefs to reveal increasingly complicated messages written in blood. Passionate gestures and theatrical facial expressions are in keeping with a show about big feelings. One gets the impression that each expression has been well-rehearsed, so it’s nice to also see more improvisational moments involving audience participation, where she is just as amusing but more natural and relaxed.

Go with your pop-culture-savvy friends, and let Banister’s enthusiasm be the smelling salts for your spirit.

Swoon is playing at Dom Polski Dwa at Dom Polski until March 27.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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