Archive for March, 2010

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Adelaide Fringe Review – Burlesque Beauties

Burlesque Beauties, by Kitty Kemble’s Mirror Mirror Company, at La Boheme has made something of point of difference in Americana inspiration, whereas many a burlesque and cabaret troupe give a good nod to the stylistic themes of Vegas, this performance took more cues from New York.

Chair routines, and somewhat tame but aerobic Feather fan performances to the likes of All That Jazz, show where a good dose of the aesthetic was pitched.  There were some very good traditional French style tease routines and acrobatics amongst the dancing, the latter quite commendable given the restricted stage area.

The Broadway nod continued with a rendition of New York New York by a shirtless, buff and highly capable male cabaret singer, Jesse James, with him really hitting his strides and owning the performance space by the second number, a soulfully delivered Cry Me A River.

Singer, Madison K, is a stunning performer who really impressed me with a particularly striking cabaret number involving murder and comedy – singing while manipulating a corpse on stage is no mean feat.

The laughs were maintained through some other well delivered cabaret favourites by other performers,  Whatever happened to class? and a witty fashion advice number with an unsuspecting audience member ending up as a Corey Worthington clone.

Again we have hit that interesting question of continuums between other forms of dancing, Show Girl routines and Burlesque.  Maybe one of the things I like about burlesque is that it is often a celebration of ‘beautiful imperfection’. The character portrayal, physicality and the delivery of routines have a certain realistic quality that are within the grasp of any woman (or man).

As a result, when I am presented with burlesque performed by athletically buff and stunning performers, delivered with a certain military precision, sculptured perfection and style of choreography I would normally associate with other exotic dance forms, it does give me moment to pause.

Maybe I feel we weren’t quite teased enough…that the bridge between performer and audience had not quite been traversed.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 16th 2010 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Events,News,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – La Petit Mort, The Orgasm

Did you know the domestic adoption and use of the vibrator preceded the home vacuum cleaner by nine years?

Neither did I?

And that once upon a time medically administered manual masturbation by your local doctor was the standard treatment for women suffering genital congestion and hysteria and that it was not regarded as anything to do with sex?

But could you claim it on Medicare?

All these tit bits, and historical pink bits, are contained in cabaret song and delicious silliness in this production by Isabel Hertaeg on “the little death”, La Petit Mort – The Orgasm.

Accompanied by her talented pianist, Geoff “Magic Fingers” Urquhart, this sexy siren, a metaphorical and literal Lady in Red, gets us into the mood with a good dose of Luciferian lavisciousness as she serenades the Devil’s horn.

Alternating between story and song she takes us from period Germanic art song dripping frank Freudian connotations to lesbian laments for labia left behind.  If I could critique one thing, it would be that the strength and delivery of her dialogue maybe didn’t carry the gravitas or conviction of her singing, less vamp, more vixen.

La Petit Mort has two more shows, 11 & 12 March at the Promethean Theatre.  Grab a ticket, but not yourself, and see why this show received rave reviews at the Edinburgh and Melbourne Fringe Festivals.

On the related topic of vibrators, and the absinthian cultural mores of neo-Victorian Steam Punk, here is a website by a creative genius who has managed to bring the two together.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 10th 2010 | Filed in Cabaret,Events,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Big Boo to Boho Bar Bastardry

Dear fellow supporters of free expression,

I have had a review, a less than complementary one at that, sitting in the draft file for a while now, not quite sure when to post it. Circumstances seem to have emerged such that it seems timely to make a comment about a certain establishment in Adelaide owned by the Booze Brothers chain, known as The Boho Bar.

Located on Unley Road, a hop skip and stagger away from Adelaide city, The Boho Bar describes itself thus on its website

“Indulge your sense in true bohemian spirit. Boho incorporates the nostalgic elements of the circus, the old burlesque sideshows and classic, bohemian cabaret theatres – and mixes them with a sleek, modern service and a kaleidoscope of sounds, light and movement. Its menu is bursting with colour & flavour with a fantastic selection of tapas style dishes and platters. Lavish, cheeky, sinister and enticing…”

I attribute the Adelaide Fringe for the rise in local Boho Chic, which in itself is not a bad thing, but when a venue seeks to make this its raison d’etre, well – I expect a certain standard to be achieved.

I’ll say it up front, The Boho Bar is to the French Parisian Café and Burlesque Hall what PJ O’Briens is to Irish Pubs. It’s a plastic paddy pub in a beret. Instead of fiddles, road signs pointing to Dublin and hurling sticks, its repro-french furniture, bad stage sets and cabinets with early 20th century entertainment flotsam and jetsam. Strip back the superficial fleur-de-lys patina and you would have a standard steel framed, television lined sports bar.

Yes, they serve absinthe, or rather ‘absinth’ – of the most atrocious and overpriced kind.  More to the point they seem happy to charge an extra $5 on each cocktail for using “King of Spirits Absinth” which isn’t fit to disinfect my toilet basin, and nary a true absintheur would disagree (i.e. so bad we find it hard to justify purchasing a bottle to review). And they burn their absinthe for heaven’s sake, showing their schtick for cheap theatrics extends to the bar.

Now, the downward spiral has continued, with this establishment being reported in the Adelaide Advertiser as now implementing a “No Drag” policy.  Sorry, come again?  A bar that supposedly embraces the “true bohemian spirit”  is bothered by cross dressers?

The paper reports that Male-to-female transgender retail worker Susan was refused entry to The Boho Bar while out with three non-cross-dressing friends.  When she contacted Booze Brothers co-director Leon Saturno two days later seeking an explanation she was told there was a new policy that “no cross-dressers would be allowed anymore”.

Well, I think the more discerning Bohemian in Adelaide can probably find much more accommodating neo-Bohemian establishments in Adelaide that serve much better absinthe anyway – but it shits me that an establishment riding on the coattails of an attitude and aesthetic, that by its very nature embraces and promotes individuality and difference, may allegedly be implementing a policy of discrimination.

Might I suggest that all within the Burlesque arts and Bohemian culture think about reposting the Adelaide Advertiser article on their blogs and websites. Perhaps this will let Mr Saturno know exactly what the community thinks about his policy.

Methinks maybe it is time to relegate Boho alongside the likes of other theme restaurants like the Medieval Dirty Dicks ?

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 7th 2010 | Filed in Bars,Culture,News,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – A Deli Burlesque

What is burlesque? What is neo-burlesque? Where do allied performing arts interface and intersect with either, or both?.

Circus. Cabaret. Vaudeville. Show Girl/Boy. Dance. Physical Theatre.

Why am I asking?

A Deli Burlesque has thrown up some challenges to me – about what I expected to see, versus what I saw.  Performers Emmaline Macartney and Gemma Falk presented a series of vignettes that straddled a number of genres, some sitting within traditional territory, others less so. They themselves describe it as a show of cross-pollination. And it is only natural, both are devotees and proficient in no small number of disciplines. As the late Robert A Heinlein wrote “Specialisation is for insects”.

Just to cover a selection of the performances

“Babes on Bikes” was a Newton-Johnesque routine on exercise bikes that exuded 80’s jazzercise glam, but at the same time was a little open ended as to the intended narrative.

“Bride” was a solo piece by Gemma Falk that mixed mime and dance in a story arc of the descent into deadening domesticity often hidden beneath the happy billows of the wedding gown.

“The Underwater Hula-Rena” was a standout hoop routine by Emmaline Macartney that made this prop an aquatic metaphor to great effect.

There was more than a cursory nod to the traditional arts, with an elegant and sensual “Lady Bird Fan Dance” by Ms Falk, that was a dancing wildlife documentary complete with David Attenborough commentary.

Emmaline’s most striking physical theatre piece, albeit minimalist, also invoked something of the sensuality of burlesque. Titled “MADE (Pandora is…)” , like a forest dryad she emerged from the foliage and sprouted into a natural bloom, counterbalanced by the eventual decay and decomposition, a return to the metaphorical humus. It was quite a powerful performance, and again seemed to achieve their lofty aims of developing a neo-burlesque style that draws from very different performance traditions.

Because what they are doing is so new, I think there may be some expecting more traditional fare who might react negatively to what was performed. But I think you need to let it incubate a bit, question your own preconceptions and biases, and question whether burlesque is really a museum exhibit or a tradition under active evolution.

Remaining performances are sold out but keep these two on your memory list – I suspect there will be further Dawinian transformation in Fringe Festivals to come.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 6th 2010 | Filed in Burlesque,Culture,Events,News,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

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