Archive for May, 2015

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Burlesque R/Evolution: Beasts, Poor Slobs & Good Fairies

 

The shows to which I am about to refer, I saw at Adelaide Fringe a little over a month ago on the final nights. I haven’t hurried to put up a review until now, because they needed some incubation on my part, and by good grace they are now being performed at other interstate venues, so now the time is right. Neither was a burlesque show in the conventional sense  – both elevated the genre into the realms of performance art.

If you were looking for a “by the numbers” tassel twirl, grind and shimmy – you would have been disappointed. These shows are not for you.

If you were looking for a refined story arc, invocation of archetypes, manifestation of myth underpinned by erotic movement, sepia sight and vintage sound – then maybe you were in the right place. I have recently waxed lyrical that endless repeats of well worn burlesque routines are beginning to tire this reviewer. Thank goodness they are also tiring many a discerning performer who are seeking to crash through the cliche and challenge the audience.

And so it was I took a journey into the delightfully tiny, tight boutique performance space that was the travelling Strumpet Salon & Exotic Imaginarium…..

Beast

There has been artistic re-interpretation of the French La Belle et la Bete since the 18th century, and this foundation text paves ground for performers KerryX and Bella deJac to walk the stage not just “in character” but as avatars of suppressed human psychological desire and instinct made flesh.

The animalistic drive, to fuck and to kill is realised through the majestically cruel swan who partners KerryX in a slow sensual dance. She would also take to the stage to ritualistically satisfy unspoken desire, a witch-woman of the bones weaving movement and ceremonial gesture to theurgical ends.

Bella deJac harnesses the various projections placed upon women – the Marian virtue and the Jezebel revelry duel to the death while she weaves powerful but sad soliloquies, her prowess and presence amplified in the performance space. Unabashed. Unashamed. I suggest you follow them.

beast flyer

The Poor Slob & The Good Fairy: A Cabaret

Lola The Vamp has taken an 1899 work by French humorist Alphonse Allais and turned standard burlesque fare on its head. Through a clever combination of silent movie projection and live performance, we follow the trials of a poor fellow down on his luck counselled by a hapless waiter whose vocal creativity is strangled by fear, all the while being beguiled by the promises of Our Lady of the Wormwood, La Fee Verte.  Oscar Wilde famously warns us that after a third glass of absinthe (because one cannot stop at two) we will see things as they really are, and that is amongst the most horrible things in the world. This is an axiom worth bearing in mind in this show – the risk of pursuing the truth is that you will find it.

A classic morality tale with a twist, Ms Vamp as our favourite peridot fairy clearly regrets nothing and neither did I. Most fitting as the belle of the époque, it may have been classic style burlesque that calls on the era & imagery we most associate with absinthe, but rarely is retro-burlesque a convincing time capsule delivered in a contemporary fashion. Here is one of those rare moments. Follow Lola and wait for it to turn up in your town.

Lola

I suppose there is irony that a pair of productions that push the contemporary boundaries of burlesque look back to 18-19th Century sources, but that only highlights that weaving the fragile threads of the human condition into tales is a timeless pursuit.  In the current era, we are at risk of losing the ability to tell stories as entertainment, hence we need to look to the past to relearn.  I trust these shows are but on the vanguard of big changes in the burlesque arts.  We are beginning to see a big injection of comedy, prose, psychodrama, live music and multimedia as the seasoned Australian performers raise the bar – arguably in part for their own creative sanity and satisfaction, but we the audience will be the beneficiaries of this r\evolution of the Art.

Posted by Jonathan on May 17th 2015 | Filed in Art,Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Reviews | Comments (0)