What Mama Alto Taught Us at the National Theatre

At the National Theatre, Mama Alto held a multifaceted recital that featured music history, anecdotes and activism.

crowdink.com, crowdink.com.au, crowd ink, crowdink, Mama Alto singing at the National Theatre, Photo: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea
Mama Alto singing at the National Theatre, Photo: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Mama Alto’s voice is second to none. She has a beautiful frame that resembles Keira Knightley at her best in Atonement. Her choices in vintage dresses are impeccable (Where does she find these?). Her penchant for tea makes her a true delight.

  1. There are many methods to express gender

Mama Alto, self proclaimed a “gender transcendent diva” constantly educated the audience about gender. She focused on the multiple methods to express one’s gender. “Gender is what you feel”, Mama Alto said. She enunciated the importance of community, especially in the affirmation of gender expression. Mama Alto then burst into an electrifying rendition of “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”

  1. Jazz Greats

Mama Alto loves history and this is evident in her musical choices. At the National Theatre, she paid homage to Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She also reminded the audience of the popular ragtime artist that performed at the National Theatre in the 1958: Winnifred Atwell.

crowdink.com, crowdink.com.au, crowd ink, crowdink, Mama Alto accompanied by her pianist Miss Chief at the National Theatre. Photo: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea
Mama Alto accompanied by her pianist Miss Chief at the National Theatre. Photo: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

3. The Despotism in Politics

Mama Alto criticised the current political stance on same-sex marriage. During one of the songs, she asked the audience to choose to pick from the “big ending and then small ending” or the “small ending and then the big ending”. She then chimed “Isn’t this a lengthy and pointless process?” She then settled on the “captain’s pick” and questioned the existence of democracy. Through satire, Mama Alto made a memorable jab at the redundancy of the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

Mama Alto at the “Post Show Soiree” after her recital Photo, Photo- Alexis Desaulniers Lea
Mama Alto at the “Post Show Soiree” after her recital Photo, Photo- Alexis Desaulniers Lea

4. The Need for Community

Mama Alto is a strong advocate for community. She raised the topic of the Asylum Seekers. Some have been forced back to the despicable conditions in Nauru and Manus. Others have been cut off from centerlink and are forced into streets. These people have no guarantee of money or safe housing. “Our Communities are under siege”, Mama Alto said. She quoted quoted fellow LGBTIQA+ activist Daniel Witthaus: “Communities are made of the accumulation of small kindnesses, which undoes the death by a thousand cuts of homophobia and transphobia.” Mama Alto then sang a highly evocative rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. This came across an emotive plea for organised communities and collective action. At the end of her performance, she received a standing ovation and a request for an encore.