The acclaimed Scottish actor and cabaret performer Alan Cumming has been named as the first-ever international Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, succeeding Julia Zemiro. His appointment was announced at the conclusion of this year’s digital festival, Bite-Sized & Home Delivered, which replaced the planned program in the wake of COVID-19.

Alan Cumming. Photo © Buzzfeed News

“I first came to Adelaide over thirty years ago and have always loved the welcome I’ve received there,” said Cumming. “And of course cabaret, with a big and small c, has always been very close to my heart!

“So to be asked to come and curate Adelaide Cabaret Festival after this missing year, to be able to bring together the most vibrant of the world’s cabaret performers, to ask them to entertain us, provoke us, make sense of the maelstrom we’re living through, and most of all remind us why cabaret is such a vital form of connection between performer and audience – well, it doesn’t get much better! And apparently you have some nice wine too!”

Based in New York, where he owns a cabaret bar in the East Village, Cumming has had an extensive career as an actor, singer and Broadway performer, winning Tony and Olivier Awards as well as receiving multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. He last appeared at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2017, where he presented his show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs. Limelight, which gave it 4 and a half stars, described Cumming as “a natural showman. Marrying a flirty-dirty sense of humour, a camp sensibility, an unashamed sentimentality and a raw emotional honesty, he has you laughing one minute and wiping a tear away the next – the perfect combo for a seductively entertaining cabaret show.”

“Alan Cumming is the master of cabaret – and indeed the many artistic pursuits he has put his hand to!” said Adelaide Festival Centre Creative Director Cabaret & Commercial Ebony Bott. “He champions this unique artform and also the power of the arts and artists to provide that essential ingredient in our everyday lives. Adelaide Cabaret Festival is loved by so many artists across the world, and we’re thrilled to be welcoming an international Artistic Director at a time when our global community is in need of galvanising.”

Current AD Julia Zemiro acknowledged her “exhilarating” time at the helm of the Festival and the warm welcome she received from audiences. “Our cabaret program for 2020 was to be a full complement to the year before but COVID-19 made us pause in the most profound and serious way,” she added. “We channelled some of these feelings through our online Bite-Sized & Home Delivered cabaret offering, asking artists to respond to this strange new state of the world, personally and politically – the true trademark of cabaret.”

“And to our marvellous cabaret audiences: thank you for your patronage,” she said. “See you in the foyers next year. Your new AD is going to blow your minds. I can’t wait!”


The 2021 Adelaide Cabaret Festival will take place from June 11-26