Fringe Review – Serpent Dancer

Serpent Dancer – Nexus Cabaret, Adelaide Fringe – 12 March 2009

Fringe shows can sometimes be a bit of a risk – the event can be a prelude for an artist to test material before polishing a show to the standards that might be demanded from a performance that was less of a showcase affair.

With that in mind I’ve agonised a bit over the following review of Serpent Dancer, in that I see it as a performance with real potential and some flashes of creative cleverness.  And while the mistress in the main, Flavella L’Amour, delivers as the sensuous siren with serpentine companions around her neck – I almost felt she had an albatross also hanging there, dragging the performance down.

Cyclone Flavella hits the mainland

My opinions have been tempered by the thoughts of a companion with a background in lighting and production who accompanied me to this performance.  He had some takes on the performance that escaped me initially, and on reflection those observations are quite valid and worth including.

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The show opens on not uncommon ground – back projections of French landmarks, Edith Piaf singing, and Ms L’Amour resplendent in traditional risque burlesque attire.  Enter stage right comes the archetypal lech, a Dick Dastardly of somewhat one-dimensional proportions with flickering tongue and dubious intention.  The routine that follows was somewhat pained vaudeville that could be summed up with that classic exhange in the movie Pretty Woman.  “I never treated you like a prostitute.” “You just did….”

What then follows is a montage of vintage film footage of scenes that, as is suggested by words on a back projected slide, would have once been regarded as obscene, possibly pornographic (albeit still tame compared to Weimer Republic era footage I have seen).  There appeared to be an emerging narrative that art can be debased or elevated through the intentions of the observer, the time and culture.

Maybe the lech is us?

Come fly with me, come fly, we’ll fly away…

Unfortunately the continuity of this narrative did not make the transition smoothly when Ms L’Amour re-emerged in PVC, corset and armed with riding crop as Queen of the Underworld, performing a more modern routine to a pounding wall of death metal noise.  There is always a danger when the busyness of the selected music can distract from the performance rather than work with it, and I fear this is what happened.  The choice of death metal was not the problem per se, but the choice of song.  Culminating with the heart of the lech being ripped out with some minor technical difficulties – I was left wondering exactly what journey it was that we were on?

Our third movement introduced buff Egyptian eunuchs, with strap on penises  – their flaccidity unfortunately reflecting the lack of strength in their somewhat stilted performances.  It was really not until the manifestation of Flavella herself like Aset descended with golden wings, that the true artistic ability began to rise like the golden dawn of Ra.  Her routine with these flowing winged props was stunning, and for the first time the lighting direction was setting the right visual emotion.  This was followed by her arabesque flirtations and none-too-subtle hip movements while adorned with her pythons. She makes strong visual contact with her audience, and she certainly draws you in.
I suspect this is a bit of a work in progress – for despite its faults there is some true gold amongst the patina.  Certainly Flavella’s control, technique and movement shine with proficiency and adeptness.

the Union of the Snake

If some greater continuity can be brought to the narrative, to the scene transitions, some more dimension and commitment to the characters, I think this performance could be something distinctly different amongst the other burlesque affairs on offering in the Fringe.  I will observe with interest.

Jonathan Mar 13th 2009 10:54 pm Burlesque,Cabaret,Events,People,Reviews No Comments yet Trackback URI

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