The Wax Conspiracy

The Burlesque Hour - The Studio, Sydney Opera House - 02/11/04

Xylophone frenzy warns those stuck in the box office queue that the show will be on within a few minutes. High note beats back against a low note and the one-upping seems to hold on to a little pea of crazy. Effeminate-man walks along asking for pre-paids to hand out tickets to and spills a lie about the good seats still on offer for the unfortunates saddled with being last in line. Their seats are directly opposite on the other side of the mezzanine, looking down into a pit of round tables filled with drinks and grey-haired people. Turtle-woman at one of the tables below sets the scene for the night with a freakishly disproportionate head against a large body. Estimated age for the night is a generous 54.

Directly opposite the ukulele-shaped stage, a man tries on and wears a French-styled accent for the night. "Presenting for you, The Burlesque Hour…"

Opening the stage to a blaring of The Divinyls' I Touch Myself there's the question of sexuality and hair care. For the most part the opener seems like the standard lip-synch that trips over the swearing skipping out of time with the tracking vocal. Things seems obvious but are quickly dashed with much head scratching and awkward silence. From here on in the show dives into a strange world of weirdness that will have numerous dictionaries consulted yet reveal little in comprehension.

Throughout the night, on a table near the stage, sits a redhead and her brunette look-alike friend. They are not pleased and for the most part seem uncomfortable, restless, pained and even tired. Maybe even a little embarrassed despite their prime position. Their faces are locked and rarely show enjoyment of the proceedings. That is until it comes closer toward the end and the brunette looks to be actively chewing and digestig the night—or possibly something stuck in her mouth—while the redhead breaks into a relaxed state before the close of the show.

Moira Finucane savages the diabetic cause in I Scream U Scream while in Victoriana - a gothic revival, an excellent masquerade is witnessed through the freeze-framing Ralph Wiggum moments of a heart breaking over a tortured song. Absurdity and despair is high in her Argentina Gina Catalina bit with hyperbole after hyperbole held together with a magnetic presence and a incremental shifting of accents from Russian into a Serge, the Seal of Death French twinge. Finucane's performances seem to wrap around a theme of rage, pain or fear. She be scary at times.

Demon handbags of Hellooo! It's Kitty's World! bring out the trio and leaves Yumi Umiumare on the start of one of a few of what seem like demented performances. Either she's conveying a sense of dementia, determination and horror or channelling energy that cannot burn any faster than the limitations of the body will allow, such as in the My Kawaii Pupil - Top of the Class! segment.

In a night filled with strange acts priming those for disturbed dreams, Azaria Universe looks to be the one plying mostly fun toward the crowd, keeping their mental blowouts in check. This being Valeshka, a hula-hoop hooping, bearded muscle-woman in the first half and a primal tigress(?) on stilts out back from the break.

On entry, patrons are given menus listing the acts on offer with a few inches on producer Jennifer Barry from Keep Breathing Productions, artistic directors Finucane and Jackie Smith and a cursory note to the names of the designers. Simply nothing more than an A3 page folded, it proves too riveting for a middle-aged woman on the side of the catwalk who, at the moment the focus of the spotlight taking the act is upon her, begins reading with much concern. At another act, an audience member unwittingly gets into the spotlight during The Desert of Love and draws many laughs with a look of confusion beyond the concepts. Various points in the show see a few applauses greet the stagehands who clean up a few of the messes left on the walk.

Toni Lamond is a special guest from an era taken wholeheartedly by the crowd at the cabaret tables. Are they laughing with genuine respect or are they shills and plants meant to disturb those with hardened comedy exposure levels? No matter, the old jokes, theatre songs and memory dances keep the crowd sated.

Red paper lanterns dangle from the ceiling in disarray. Their placement becomes a problem for those on the mezzanine as soon as the show starts with even the smallest taking a block out of vision. Hosed are the seats on the side of the stage and even more so those positioned behind. The curtains do much to obscure the view and Universe's Pearls..., around Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart, suffers badly from this as half of the set, which has much thrashing involved, is blocked.

Left on the outer are those left to wonder if the start is an in-joke for those in full front view and what sort of crack Effeminate-man is on telling them that good seats on the side were still available. The elderly couple who arrived early certainly are looking none too pleased with their seats and even at one stage become near ropeable.

There is strobe lighting for those eager to take epileptic friends. This fact is not mentioned nearly as prominently as the nudity and nakedness on stage. Nudity which quickly escalates a fear of whether or not the next performance will feature disrobing.

Is The Burlesque Hour a fashion parade of a freakshow nature? Or a high end and intimate carnival act? Or both, with cabaret grafts? With no clear understanding of what the terms "burlesque" or "debauched" actually mean, things wallow in the disturbed mind grappling a comprehension.

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Wednesday, 3 November 2004

The Wax Conspiracy




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