My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage


Lighting up the dark

by Drew Rowsome

Full Dark is on Sat, Aug 17 and Sun, Aug 18 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.

"I have spent a great deal of my cabaret career focusing on the lighter side, looking into the lyrics and stories of songs we think we all know so well," says Sharron Matthews of her workshop Full Dark. "When I am putting a show together for a larger, commercial venue, tour or audience I stick to the comedy and the popular songs, but I have always loved the dark. This residency at Buddies really allows me the chance to explore it."

Matthews persona is a combination of wisecracking diva, superstar, clown and songstress, but officially she is the Cabaret Artist in Residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a role she relishes. "We get to create," she says of the residency program. "And have a place to do it. An artistic home. When I do my rehearsals and workshop shows it will all be in the cabaret. That is such a help - to have a simple space to rehearse in. And the resident artists have access to the Buddies infrastructure for help in many things such as publicity, tech and box office. There is just plain support for the work you are doing."

Matthews also, in the time-honoured Buddies tradition, enjoys working with aspiring performers as part of her residency. "There are so many young people out there doing their thing. Cabaret is the way to go, if you want to start asserting your artistic voice with solo musical work. There aren't many musicals casting any more so the young people have to be self starters." And performing cabaret is Matthews' contagious passion, "I simply love it. I love the intimacy and the structure. It is so personal. And if the audience is on the same page or can identify with what I am saying and/or singing, it is a thrilling group experience. There is no fourth wall so I can hear and see everything and use it to spur me forward. Or to stop me in my tracks. There is nothing like it."

But at the moment Full Dark, and promoting it, is Matthews' main focus. "I have written six new songologues and they all contain different kinds of darkness: ego, anxiety and sadness, sexuality surpressed - so many different kinds of darkness." But Matthews is not abandoning her self-defining schtick, "I think, I hope, I have long used comedy to flesh out darker subjects. And it doesn't mean that just because we are going to the dark side that there isn't any comedy - we all know that life is everything."

As if to demonstrate Matthews decides that it isn't too soon to express herself about the loss of her former signature tune, "Don't Stop Believing." In true cabaret fashion she is funny, bittersweet and just plain bitter. "I have never gotten over it! At the time, it seemed like every song I picked to put in Sharron's Party was on Glee the next effing week. It was infuriating! I had to be reminded every once in a while that I didn't write the song: Journey did. And as for poor Cory Monteith, what a sad thing. What a waste of a future. Everyone talked about what a lovely man he was."

Matthews has one other reason for loving Buddies, one that many of us share. "The day I overheard Sky Gilbert telling someone that I was one of the queerest people and performers around I was so thrilled. I think it was the biggest I have smiled in my life. This community embraced me from the get go, I always felt welcome and, indeed, celebrated.  I have longed to fit in my whole life – anywhere - and this community hugged me and showed me in. Queer! That is me. Thankfully."

Full Dark is on Sat, Aug 17 and Sun, Aug 18 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.