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Express Yourself.

May 14, 2011
Copyright: Jordan Graham and Paul Scala, 2011.

Photo by Jordan Graham and Paul Scala. MUA Sophie Roberts. Shot at the Rat's Nest Studio in Darlinghurst.

Mardi Gras Film Festival: “Spork.”

February 23, 2011

There is a really fantastic feature film coming up at the Mardi Gras Film Festival next week. Winning the audience award at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, Spork is a feature-length film from director JB Ghuman Jr which explores belonging, identity and bravery.

Spork is the nickname of the main character: a pubescent, self-proclaimed “hermaphrodite” girl in junior high who is systematically bullied for being different.  She is gentle and frizzy-haired and socially awkward and talks to her deceased mother for advice, who is buried outside next to the caravan that she shares with her brother and his Courtney Love-esque partners in the trailer park on the outskirts of a nondescript suburban town. (Honestly, she looks like any coke-bottle lensed, plastic neon and denim anarco-punk queer from Marrickville.) Her loyal neighbour is the fast-talking black “booty-popping” champion, Tootsie Roll.

Of course, the bad girls are perfectly cast as the Britney-worshipping ‘queen bees’ and their bitchy top girl, Betsy Byotch. After Spork boils over and ‘accidently’ injures Betsy’s button nose, the insults and threats culminate in a school-spectacular dance-off. Tootsie takes Spork under her wing and into the throbbing underworld of booty clubs and excessive hair product. There is a lot of Sparkle Motion, a distinct ring of “Glee” in each musical number and a good dose of John Waters’ suburban irony and colour.

I was taken by the tender teenage love, hilarious and sassy one-liners and fantastic musical direction in this story that is focused less on her intersex status and more on the experience of feeling like a weirdo and finding true friends. Spork is also on the Youth Programme and is suitable for viewers aged 15+

Spork is showing at:
the Dendy Newtown on Wednesday March 2nd, 7:00pm.
and at Hoyts EQ Moore Park on Monday 28th February, 7:30pm.

Sydney’s historic Trocadero Dance Palace back in the swing.

January 20, 2011

The Original Trocadero, 1936

The Trocadero opened in 1936 in Sydney, in the middle of The Depression opening a space for jazz bands and dancers, bohemians and hep cats to mingle and swing. Can you picture it? On George Street, right where the Hoyts cinema complex stands today in full art deco glory, it remained until 1970 as a glamorous night spot.

This evening I attended the opening of The Trocadero Dance Palace in the Sydney Town Hall, as part of the Sydney Festival. A warm Summer evening, still light outside and people were skipping up the steps of the Town Hall for a very special night. The foyer was buzzing with people, many dressed up to the nines in sharp suits, pretty dresses and some serious hairdos. In an alcove to the left, you could find the Vintage Allsorts Styling Parlor where a team of vintage stylists were on hand to help you fix your victory rolls or pin on a corsage. The music and excitement spilled into the main ballroom and Swing Patrol led an introductory dance lesson from 6:30 onwards.

This cavernous civic space was artfully re-imagined with some very clever lighting design by Matt Marshall. The beautiful uplit columns and lasers created a modern, yet Art Deco aesthetic which directed the energy down to the dance floor, where the action was happening. Spins, dips and pop jumps — the swing dancers electrified the boards! And the rest of the crowd snapped along appreciatively from the surrounding tables and upstairs gallery.

In the true spirit of the Trocadero which originally featured an all-girl jazz band, the Troc Dance Palace is kept swinging by the Sirens Big Band and the adorable vocalist, Lanie Lane. These girls covered all the classics, with tempos to suit all dancers and swing covers of Beyonce and Kylie. There was a floor show, aerialists, dancing, cocktails, schmoozing and crepes. My recipe for happiness. The greatest disappointment was the dance component of the floor show, with 4 young professional dancers, the boys costumed in some alarming jeggings and hipster nerd glasses and the girls in some kind of square-dancing negligee attire. They danced with the enthusiasm of a schools spectacular production of Westside story, but lacked the dance connection and feel of the swing era. The true vibe of the night was brought by the swing dancers in attendance, who filled the floor, feeling the music and   rocking out like it was no big thing.

Pic: Paul K Robbins/Monde Photo

Unfortunately, this palais de danse is only open for 3 more nights and tickets are totally sold out for the early part of the evening. But you will still have a chance to experience the Trocadero party atmosphere, as limited tickets are still available for The Royal Crown Revue, those kings of the American swing revival who will hit the Troc stage from 10pm this Friday and Saturday night. I’ll be there. I can’t WAIT!

For more excellent Trocadero history, take a look at

It’s not gay if you’re related: The Wau Wau sisters’ Last Supper

January 18, 2011

As their Twitter bio reads: (we) “have the same dad, different moms, like the same cocktails and are coming to Edinburgh fringe!!” And they blew the Fringe away with 4 and 5 star reviews piling onto their star-stacked credentials, which include the World Famous Spiegeltent, Miss Exotic World, The Grammys, London’s West End and countless international festivals.

La Clique stars Tanya Gagne and Adrienne Truscott may or may not be ‘real’ sisters, but they certainly send out the vibe that they are friends with the ‘other’ kind of sisters. These girls from Brooklyn are a part of that amazing community of performers from NYC who appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Shortbus’, along with Murray Hill, Justin Bond and every other fascinating person in New York.

Their hilarious and blasphemously slutty show, ‘Last Supper’ is an explosion of organised chaos as they morph, in full-audience view through a series of costume changes and characters: impudent schoolgirls, incestuous born-again country boozers and psychedelic pagan trippers. The Benny Hill slapstick soundtrack and audience-assisted disrobing creates a frenetic blur between their spoken word and smutty songs, which are often delivered from a carefully balanced aerial adagio.

The Wau Wau Sisters have this organised chaos thing down pat.  They know how to read their crowd and miraculously coerce the right victims  into some potentially mortifying yet disarmingly blithe audience participation. The unwitting punters are quickly utilised for acrobalance tricks, revealing leg muscles they probably didn’t know they had. As soon as they are returned safely to the cheers of their tables, the wigs are flying and the Wau Wau’s boobs are frantically being tucked back in to another costume literally seconds before each next hilarious number begins.

This style of renegade improvisation mixed with chaos and bedecked with sequins, politics and gay abandon seems to come from an earlier time in modern cabaret, genuinely self-directed and uncensored and utterly audacious. It was completely refreshing to see such a smart, wild and experienced pair of gals given free reign on a well-produced stage.

The Last Supper is part performance art, part burlesque and  most deservedly circus. Their Rock and Roll trapeze act is a standout as their beautiful, strong, sinewy bodies confidently span death-defying drops and graceful aerial ballet. And the finale? It is a corker. I won’t reveal it here, but we were left cheering and giving each other those “Did-they-really-just-do-that” sort of looks.

I was inspired. I must admit, as soon as we got home, I was busting to try out a bit of the old ‘aeroplane trick’ acrobalance on the bed.   It’s just that sort of show.


Buy Tickets

‘they turn the audience on with wit, humour and a cunning array of stunts… ‘ – Time Out, New York

‘irreverent, sacrilegious, foul-mouthed and uninhibited’ – New York Times

like the Vagina Monologues on acid’  – News Weekly

*Warning: Contains nudity and Offensive language. Age Recommendation: 16+ (Mature Themes)

At the Opera House Studio, till 22nd January. $39/30

Briefs: Burlesque with Balls

January 10, 2011

Last night I had the great delight of attending Briefs : the “all male, all vaudeville, all trash” performance of circus tricks, boylesque and strutting, currently running at the Opera House Studio. It was rightly the winner  of the Best Circus – 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival, has played Brisbane and Woodford Folk festivals in 2009 and to sell-out audiences at the Adelaide Fringe and Judith Wright Centre.  Briefs is the collective of MC Fez Faanana, ‘Boylesque Boywonder’ Mark Winmill, Natano Faanana, Davy Sampford, Mali de Groey, Rudi Mineur and lady of the house, Tess Beck.

Briefs takes an awareness of the forms and tropes of ‘traditional’ burlesque and circus and skilfully plays within them.

These boys display great variation in their skills and characters — handsome, weedy, graceful, awkward, ostentatious, butch and through this diversity work with incredible rapport and balance as a troupe. The show is riveting from start to end. With a fantastic soundtrack of Major Lazer, Roisin Murphy, the Motels and more, amazing death-defying skills and fluorescent beaded g-strings, we were whistling and  laughing till the lights went down.

There is all sorts of burlesque out there right now and in my opinion, Briefs represents what is great about this form of performance. As a lover of burlesque and circus, (having attended the former the entirety of my adult life on a regular basis) I am aware of watching all the old tricks, the going through of the motions, my rising boredom and desire to go to the bar as another insecure cliche is trotted out or another perfect, yet sterile trick is ticked off the box. There seems to be an electricity when a performer cuts through that fog, that routine and desperate desire to be approved of and electrifies the audience by performing straight past their expectations, making real contact with their attention.

I really believe that audiences are sophisticated enough to feel this nuance — that not only are these boys nailing every trick that they perilously undertake, they are also doing it with a knowing wink. So if  Mark’s butt is squeezed into a taut bind in the aerial ropes, he flaunts it knowingly. When Davy takes his sweet time as his spinning plates wobble dangerously, his deadpan smirk is in ‘total control.’ When Fez deconstructs his ‘disaster drag’ into a very human skin, we are holding our breath for him. When the cast effortlessly twirl their feather fans in canons to rival seasoned showgirls, they do so in a way that pays tribute with comic variation. They milk each gag to absurd relief, making light of the body, their skills and of various masculinities.  They permit you to notice the things that you are not supposed to take notice of.

Here we see a showgirl take on the Chippendale waiters, the underpants model, the bogan, the gymnast on steroids, the drunken deadbeat and the suburban toreador, each well-developed character presented with a real affection. And the very act of taking a traditionally feminine form (the burlesque show) and transplanting it with male performers immediately begins its semiotic deconstruction.

Most contemporary burlesque performed by women seems to explore an amplified femininity: a femininity as drag, a femininity of heightened drama. Out in the world, femininity is consistently the topic of debate while masculinities seem to have the privilege of passing under the radar in everyday life, rarely turning up for scrutiny.  I believe this parody of masculinity in performance has the power to unhinge the norm, dismantle the hegemony and remove the shades that we cast over normative gender expression. It highlights that which normally passes as the undifferentiated masses.

It casts a glittering follow-spot on the talent and charisma of those who are not beige.

“Briefs” — the all-male revue is running for only a few more days at the Sydney Opera House Studio and if you can get yourself tickets, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Burlesque Assassin – may include bondage.

January 9, 2011

12 September 2009 for unFRINGEd

I had a coffee with the Burlesque Assassin, Nikki Nouveau at Cinque. It’s a public space so I thought that if she whipped out any restricted weapons, at least there would be witnesses.

Nikki quickly put me at ease with her enthusiasm for burlesque and martial arts. Scorned hot babes who don’t take any shit are always hotter with a weapon. Tank Girl. Barbarella. Lucy Liu in Kill Bill. Any of them. Trained by her martial arts-obsessed brother, she got the idea for the burlesque show when watching Bruce Lee whirling his ‘chucks in the film ‘Enter The Dragon.’

A seasoned singer and performer, with 15 years of singing under her belt, Nikki is not content just to slay the audience with her sultry singing but would rather take us through an unnerving trail of vengeance and seduction. Her 50 minute show has been developed with the mentorship of Wendy Dys and the visuals are amped with the aerial talents of Matt Kinsinger, and professional ballerina Simone Smiles. The bittersweet musical score is provided by her regular band, The Knife Waltz, playing a live soundtrack to this unique cabaret.

Not only danger and talent, but Nikki promises me (well, I mean the audience) bondage. That’s right, some bondage.

So a few quick questions:

You are such a multi-faceted artist. In your artistic process, what comes first for you… the music, the visual or the concept?

My ideas flow from a storytelling notion. I really like to develop a character to a deep level… in this case, I’ve tried to find that combination of crazy and sensual.

Have you ever hurt yourself with your nunchucks?

No. Only chipped a nail.

Lucky! Have you ever considered branching out into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burlesque side project?

Um… no.

Burlesque Assassin opens tonight at the Red Rattler Theatre, Marrickville.

Sat 08.00pm
Sun 09.30pm
Thu 09.30pm

Tickets available at

…And for some Bruce Lee nunchuck genius:

Mortal Engine Review

January 9, 2011

May 2009

Tonight I had the luck to score tickets to Mortal Engine, the acclaimed work by Melbourne’s Chunky Move dance company. Difficult to classify, this piece straddles contemporary dance, physical theatre and new media, as the cast of six dancers weave in and amongst a set defined by projected light design on a pitched stage. These genres found moments of union in the opening sequence when the dancers were haloed alternately by white or black membranes of projected light, connecting in a meiosis of human relation or when they were showered in particles like ashes or insects, exploding in a vacant cosmos or in a mechanical eruption. This point laboured through the darkness and increasing volume as the dancers reacted to the gnawing and deafening soundscape.

The choreography played a background role in this work. Swamped by the frenetic light show, the unison was lost and the sense of motion was muffled, as if under a mass of agar jelly.
To place this piece conversation with other cross-genre contemporary dance companies, it did not use the athleticism of ‘Legs on the Wall’ or the narrative theatre of ‘Compagnie Phillipe Genty’ – in this case, the point of difference was really the lighting design.

Moving from the monochromatic opening half, the second half crashed into a fragmented assault of smoke, green lasers and industrial noise. The closing scene had elements of science fiction and danger and some new conceptual direction.

I finished this piece with smoke in my lungs, a dizzy retinal laser after-burn and the vague feeling that I was sitting in the bleachers of the Hordern Pavillion, talking myself out of a K-hole. I might add, I would not have been surprised to see an ACON drug rover wander across the back of the stage in a pink safety vest to shoo us out of the auditorium when the show was over.

Mortal Engine: Sydney Theatre Walsh Bay, Till the 15th May.

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