A remarkable performance piece
By Joana Simmons
Leather, lace, tulle and truth. Stripping back in a whole different context, performance artist, theatre designer and questioning showgirl, Carletta The Great beautifully pushes boundaries in A Showgirl: Deconstructed. Through her performance combining burlesque, physical theatre, film and performance art the complex core beneath the costumes and corsets are theatrically laid out for examination. Carletta the Great is scrumptiously weird, and her commitment and detail in this show are poignantly interesting.
The usual red cabaret curtain upstairs at The Butterfly Club is covered with a white screen, providing a great canvas to frame the corset-and-tulle-clad diva – posed with her back to us as we enter, hilariously humming an undefinable tune. The most memorable burlesque opening follows, beginning with a *mic drop. The audience is cackling and clapping, and the cool, ever-so-sassy Carletta the Great wraps us around her well-manicured finger.
A mixture of accompanying films plays on the white backdrop – one epic Monty-Python-esque animation in homage to woman and concepts of beauty over time, combined with a soundtrack that gives it the sexy excitement of a Bond film. Wearing nothing but false eyelashes and makeup, a voiceover of a cross section of the woman who is Carletta the Great, 20-year-old tattoo and all, honestly and somewhat bluntly makes us see all the cells that come together to make her female form. I have to mention her mouth, which is as big as her stage persona, and her tongue which traced hypnotic circles around her lips. She moves sensually against film footage of enlarged lips, the graceful showgirl arm lines looking stunning against the white backdrop. Overall though, there’s subtlety and control to what she does , and parts of her performance art that are also sad at times.
10pm on a Monday night might not usually be the time you would expect a crowd to be giving a huge applause, but A Showgirl Deconstructed earned every clap. Co-devisor and director Willow J Conway along with Carletta drew inspiration from Dadaism, butoh, dreamscapes and the modern-day feminist to create a work that shows the gritty, unfiltered showgirl. The detail in the incredible costumes and the costume changes is amazing: watching Carletta the Great squeeze into 10-inch thigh high PVC boots is a great insiders’ perspective, and equally amazing is how smoothly she then moves in them. The opening is still standout for me – there were a few more comical moments to balance out the drama, but I feel like these could have been expanded further to give the show more contrast and texture.
My favourite thing about this production is that the performance is not cloying, cliched or thrust upon us. It just is. In the showgirl world, cheese and sequins are basically as synonymous as gin and tonic, but if you are looking for the different side of the world of pasties and pouts – this is it.
A Showgirl: Deconstructed
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, CBD
18-24 September 8.30pm
Image by Three Fates Media