Archive for March, 2011

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Adelaide Fringe Review – Burlesque Assassin


After much of the Classical style Burlesque I have seen over the Fringe it is good to counterbalance things with some modern form neo-Burlesque – and yea verily, it is even better when it works. There have been some real hits and misses in years past. Tonight was the former, not the latter, I am happy to say.

Consider if you will the tradition of Chamber Opera, small ensembles of performers and musicians performing stories designed for a small venue.  The concept of Chamber Opera actually fits very well with neo-Burlesque, and particularly tonights performance, Burlesque Assassin.  We have a house band consisting of stripped back drums, indie-jazz double bass and jangling shoe-gazing guitar – this being Sydney band The Knife Waltz, the lead singer for which, Nikki Nouveau prowls onto stage like a diamonte spotted Snow Leopard, bullwhip in hand.  The reverb laden sounds layered with Nikki’s voice touches on sentiments of PJ Harvey and Blonde Redhead, with certain noir Lynchian qualities.

Simone Smiles enters the scene, doing the first instance I can recall seeing of Burlesque Ballet, initially toying with Nikki with pseudo-sapphic allusions.  The story starts taking shape through the songs performed and kinetic physicality, Nikki being bound in symbolic shibari restraint into domesticity by her (very tall!) male paramour – is this a willing submission or forced? We are never sure, the line being fine where love is involved.  But temptation from Ms Smiles and her pirourettes undermines this bond, the paramours eyes, mind and then body wander with a detached coldness.  A deadly mistake that culminates in the revenge of a lover spurned, a Dominatrician transformation overcomes Nikki, wielding nunchucks and crowbar for good measure.

The combination of live band, singing, storyline and dance that deliberately intertwines is something I could really enjoy seeing more of in neo-Burlesque performances.  If I were to critique anything, there were times I thought the high momentum in Burlesque Assassin risked a stumble, but this is possibly just an issue of management of continuity from one scene to the next.  This is really quite a different kind of performance with no major breaks between scenes for performer or audience to catch their breath, so the stage management I can only imagine is no small matter.

I look forward to more from Nikki Nouveau in future, and most certainly The Knife Waltz.

The last performance is tonight, 12 March, at 9pm – and it is SOLD OUT.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 12th 2011 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,News,People,Reviews,Style | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – A Dolls House

I’ve seen a few Burlesque shows this Fringe, and some I have openly pondered about how well the mood has been set by the Master of Ceremonies, what I believe to be a critical role. They are no less than a Ringmaster, an Orchestral Conductor even.  Look and learn would be MC’s.  The Dolls House Master of Ceremonies (or is that Master of Seduction?),  is the wonderfully androgynous Johnny Castrati, a dandy indeed and resplendent in a frock coat with dual peacock motifs (cocksure compensation perhaps?).

But he promises us much. “Less David Jones and more Carnivale!!” he proclaims to my welcome relief, my growing anticipation.

Thus the tone and tenure of the evening is set, and the foundations laid for the entrance of Flavella L’Amour, corseted in period garb and parasoled like Marie Antoinette, who teases wonderfully by appropriately pacing her routine, losing not an inch of kapow in the process, across a soundtrack of 1920’s jazz, modern rock and then swing.  She will push the ceiling higher later in the evening with a sassy cabaret jazz routine climaxing in her adornment in her trademark pet python, its random wandering across her curves producing a natural snakeskin garment that moved and reacted to her gyrations.

Karrey Dolly gave us an ‘Edwina Scissorhands routine that was cleverly constructed, although her movements in this routine and her follow up Middle Eastern Gogo Explosion occasionally had timing issues, which need to be forgiven as she was last minute a stand in, and she clearly was committed to delivering a solid performance.

Zoe L’Amour Princess of Pain & Daredevil Diva fulfilled provided a nice contrasting hard edge darkness to the otherwise bright display through acts of masochism, illusion and daring – mousetraps on the tongue, consuming razor blade laden apples, climbing a ladder of swords bear footed and tongue kissing an electric metal fan.  The girl is hard. Well hard.  If this wasn’t enough she proved that battery operated love toys are no match for a mains electricity powered angle grinder thrust into an armour clad groin.

Lastly, to the crooning tunes of Just A Gigolo, our psychopomp extraordinaire Johnny Castrati emerged from his chrysalis to reveal Australian Burlesque royalty, Rita Fontaine who gave us a full contact Gogo shimmy and shake that threatened to undermine the building foundations.

A Dolls House was Burlesque in a Mexican wrestling mask that slammed us into the canvas repeatedly, leaving us much too delirious and weak to tag out.

A Dolls House has their last performance on tonight, 12 March, at 11pm – SOLD OUT

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 12th 2011 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Events,News,People,Reviews,Style | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – Skitch Tease

The premise seemed good.  Naked cabaret comedy performance with piano accordian.

I never thought I’d say that nudity can never compensate a wanting performance, but there you go.

It started well, as a bold bump & tease entrance, a slow disrobing behind a strategically placed accordian (a nice change to balloons).  But then Liz Skitch, our femme fatale protagonist for the evening, delivered her particular mix of songs, stories and comedic one liners, clothed in bad musical paisley behind a maddening novelty oompah bass line that had me convinced that at some stage she was going to deliver a “I say, I say, I say, my dog has no nose…” routine.

If you are old enough you may remember comedian Jean Kittsons ditzy character Candida Royal on the Big Gig – remove the leotard, give her German instrumentation and you get the picture.

Look, much of the audience seemed to be laughing and were enjoying it tremendously, so what do I know?

I just didn’t find the stories particularly clever, the songs were loosely constructed and the expected punchy one liners had the aim of drunken haymaker in the front bar of the Ettamogah Pub.

Skitchtease has one more performance this Thursday 11 March 2011.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 8th 2011 | Filed in Cabaret,Culture,Events,People,Reviews,Style | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – Adnaan Baraky: Sounds of Syria

I would like to use this review of Adelaide-based Syrian Oud player Adnaan Baraky as an opportunity to make a comment on the multiculturalism debate, and this so called notion of “assimilation”.

A number of years ago I started to learn the Oud with a wonderful teacher in the Western Sydney Turkish community, which culminated in me joining their community orchestra as the token White Anglo-Saxon. I didn’t speak a word of Turkish, I was not a Muslim, I had never been to Middle Eastern country, I knew nothing of the culture – and yet I was welcomed with open arms because of my willingness to cross the cultural bridge halfway on account of my love of the instrument. And I came to learn and love that there is such a thing as a unique Australian Turkish culture, a thing in itself. This was for me represented best in a song composed in Turkish Classical style by my Oud teacher which sang the history of the Australian “Johnnies” and Turkish “Mehmets” fighting on the shores of Gallipoli. “Assimilation” as the critics of multiculturalism would have it, would prevent art such as this from being born in Australia.

During the performance by Adnaan, a highly skilled and creative artist with a learned musical pedigree, he spoke of composing his piece Melodies from the Other Side as the US Forces invaded Afghanistan, written for the dead on both sides of the conflict. He was unable to finish the song. Then when the US invaded Iraq, again he tried to complete the piece but was not able. Finally, after moving to Australia, he was so touched the tragedy of the victims of the Victorian bushfires he was able to finish the song, as if the spirits of the dead were saying to the living “Don’t worry about us, instead, worry about yourselves, for we are in peace”.

This is what is created in the crucible of multiculturalism.

Much of his new music being showcased tonight from his newly released album is born of his migration to Australia, of the search to find a means of expressing his Syrian heritage in the Australian setting. The Blues was not born here, but we are often happy to talk about an Australian Blues scene, and cultural context. Why are we then so hesitant about recognizing Australian-Middle Eastern culture and music, or Australian-African, or Australian-Asian for that matter?

There are songs of geographical dislocation, Ya Balady, of Sufic spirital ecstacy through Union with the Divine, Dinaan and well as traditional dances, Lawha. Through all these works and thematic melodies he conjures amazing taksim (improvisation) that carries one into deep meditative admiration.

Adnaan Baraky will be doing one more performance for the Adelaide Fringe on Sunday 13 March. Attendance would be all the more culturally enriching for you I think, an opportunity to pick up his CD while you are there.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 5th 2011 | Filed in Art,Cabaret,Culture,Events,Music,News,People,Reviews,Style | Comments (0)

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