Adelaide Cabaret Festival pays tribute to the Velvet Gentleman: eccentric genius, bad pianist.

When Erik Satie died in 1925, those closest to him were shocked to discover that the dapper French composer had lived in a filthy, threadbare room with to which he hadn’t admitted a single visitor in 27 years. Now a museum dedicated to his life and work, the dingy apartment was once strewn with hoarded umbrellas and newspapers that almost completely buried its most striking feature: two grand pianos placed one on top of the other, the upper instrument used as storage for letters and parcels. It was at once a haven and a prison for Satie, a secretive, introverted alcoholic who died from cirrhosis of the liver.

One of many mysteries about his life is how the self-styled “velvet gentleman” managed to keep up appearances, emerging from his squalid hovel so immaculately groomed (always in one of seven identical grey suits purchased in 1895 with part of a small inheritance) for the daily 10km stroll to his favourite cafés and local haunts in Paris.

It’s a subject that fascinates the Australian collective Various People Inc, whose new show for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival playfully draws on...