Winner of Best Cabaret Melbourne Fringe 2017, Seen and Heard is a cabaret show like no other. The host, Becky Lou, has sought out four cabaret and burlesque performers and invited them to tell the audience their personal stories. In a world of performance that is usually so dominated by the physical, this gives us an unprecedented insight into the lives and experiences of those we see onstage.
Becky Lou opens the show herself with a unique and raunchy cabaret performance. To give more details would ruin what is a wonderful surprise for the audience, but suffice to say that her act balances the subversive with the hilarious. She then takes the mic, beginning the rest of the show. She tells the audience about her experiences growing up, the expectations placed on her to get married and have children. She then tells the audience that she has found her true friends and family in the strip clubs, queer parties, and burlesque bars that are so often overlooked and judged by others. Female liberation, especially sexual liberation, is a theme that runs throughout the show, and the performances are empowered from start to finish.
Becky Lou introduces the first act, Frankie Valentine, who is a stripper from Australia. After a risqué and high energy strip tease Valentine herself takes the mic. Her story is about her mother, a Catholic schoolgirl turned tantric hippy. She explores the affect that our upbringing has on our sexuality and perceptions of sex, saying that her mother’s sexually progressive beliefs meant that she was never ashamed of her body, her sexuality, the number of sexual partners she has had, or, ultimately, her decision to become a stripper. This demands that the audience consider where our own perceptions of strippers and sex workers come from, and is a subversive and heart-warming story.
Then follows Chase Paradise, also an Australian stripper, who gives the audience a lesson on how to lap dance. She hilariously relays what she is ‘really thinking’ when she’s giving men lap dances, once again humanising what is usually seen as a purely physical act. Her personal anecdote is more serious than those previously, and is both sincere and moving. Like Becky Lou and Frankie Valentine, she addresses people’s preconceived ideas of her industry, smashing stereotypes along the way.
Following Chase Paradise is Clara Cupcakes, a zany variety and burlesque performer whose act consists of a Tim Minchin style comedy song. Her wacky lyrics have everyone laughing, and her onstage manner is high octane. She then tells the audience of an online battle she had with an unnamed male comedian over a sexist joke, highlighting how it is much more difficult for women to be successful in comedy than men. Her story is witty and truthful, and has the audience smiling the whole way through.
The show is concluded by Anna Pocket, a circus performer who specialises in hula-hooping. Her routine with the hoops is a mesmerising physical feat and is a perfect way to round out the show. Pocket’s story is a day-in-the-life of juggling her very young son, her job and her performances, another story of female experience.
This is a unique show in that it gives voices to women who are usually judged on their physical performance and appeal. A fresh look at the world of burlesque and cabaret performance, it is certainly worth a watch.
Seen and Heard
Underbelly, Cowgate – Iron Belly
Photo Credit: Underbelly Press Office