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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook, at Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne - 120 mins plus interval

The highly entertaining two-hour show could be called the soundtrack of the glorious Robyn Archer’s life.

She, accompanied by a highly talented three-piece band – who also provide backing vocals – bring us largely a collection of little-known songs and a few poems.

There are a few tunes she wrote and others that chart the path of Australia’s heritage.

With her warm and engaging tone and crystal-clear enunciation, she pays homage to indigenous Australians and immigrants.

Her mother clearly has a special place in her heart with her love of the land.

And there is a bracket on parodies and blowhards, including politicians.

She ends the show with a lengthy doff to many of Australia’s placenames.

Photo by Brett Boardman

From ballads, lullabies, laments and love songs to yodeling and up-tempo numbers, her range is magnificent.

She and Cameron Goodall on guitars and banjo, George Butrumlis on the accordion and Enio Pozzebon on keyboard harmonise wonderfully.

From Bon Scott to Kate Miller Heidke and First Nations’ songwriters, An Australian Songbook is a rich and textured offering.

Archer and her cohort clearly have heaps of fun doing what they do. The chemistry between them is palpable.

Photo by Brett Boardman

Archer straddles time and place, moving from the 19th century to the here and now.

From deeply reverential to poking the bear, her – at times – salty mouth endears her to an appreciative crowd.

Importantly, she provides background and context (where they came from and how they came to be) to her songs.

Call it a narrative concert, if you will, with the primary focus on the music.

Archer, the artist and provocateur in full flight, is truly a thing of beauty.

I, for one, greatly applaud her endeavours. She is a national treasure.

Commissioned by Queensland Theatre, Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook is at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until 13th June, 2023 as part of RISING.

For details of the full RISING Festival program, go to


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