Fringe World Perth 2015, Perth

Empire of Desire, Perth Fringe World Festival, 2015

0 Comments 20 February 2015

Cabaret                                                               by Sugar Blue Burlesque                         The West Australian Spiegeltent                18th February 

Whenever you go to a party, unless it is preceded by the word ‘tea’, it’s expected there will be a certain level of pizazz and entertainment. And often commitment to the cause of getting drunk. When you’ve received an invitation from Dionysus, none other than the god of wine, sex and revelry himself, the stakes are higher – you know things will be kicked up a notch.

The banter between Dionysus and his father Zeus, his dry humoured slave Xanthius, and the sporadic musical numbers, turned out to be the highlights of the show. However, one is left with a somewhat underwhelming performance, heightened by disappointment that the writers of the piece didn’t do their homework properly.

By and large it is not required to have a solid knowledge of Greek mythology in order for the show to proceed with success, though it aids in some of the more obscure jokes. Unfortunately, it might even be said that the less you know, the easier it is to sit back and enjoy yourself.

Creative liberties such as Hades and Heracles being performed by female burlesque dancers (traditionally masculine deity and demi-god, respectively), was an entertaining and anachronistic choice. A slightly disturbing one at that, with the added padding in their pants contrasting their curvaceous femininity–something that Hermaphroditus would be proud of.

Zeus scolding Dionysus, that his “grandfather would be disappointed” drew some laughs, as the irony was that Chronos would probably have revelled in the chaos, and even his complaint that Dionysus’ ‘mother’ was “trying to sleep upstairs” was chuckle-worthy.

It was with Artemis’ presence at the party that the biggest potential joke was missed; this gave the first inkling to the disappointment described here. The fact that Artemis, an eternal virgin, with no interests outside hunting, attended the party of Dionysus, the god of sex, with the likes of Aphrodite, was swept under the rug. There was no suggestion of sexual awakening or playing with the original narrative, and her appearance onstage in a caged pleather one-piece was a disappointment and left little to the imagination. The first thing that was noticeable in almost every performance was an abundance of bare flesh, which resulted in a lack of titillation and anticipation burlesque is famously known for.

Perhaps with more research and many more rehearsals it could have been the beginning to a witty, sensual and seductive performance. Using Greek mythology as a framework for a burlesque show is clever, considering the infidelity and misdemeanours which can be found in abundance, particularly with mischief makers such as Dionysus and Aphrodite in attendance. However, with only shallow roots in the original text, what was left was underwhelming: fun but not fabulous. A plateau from beginning to end, initial high expectations dropped to leave audiences with a painful tumble from Olympus’s heights.

Empire of Desire runs until Sunday the 22nd of February, and you can find tickets via the Fringe World guide here.

Fringe World, Sugar Blue Burleque

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