Star Wars: The Empire Strips Back continues the cabaret tradition of Burlesque Combining the sensual art of the tease with an outrageous parody of one of the earliest science fiction traditions – dressing up in Star Wars regalia – has produced the must see shows of the year. Star Wars: The Empire Strips Back pays homage to one of science fictions greatest cultural contributions in the sexiest kind of way.
Light-sabers are at the ready as the Rebels continue their fight against the Empire. The rebels amongst us lucky enough to be in Melbourne during February should escape the heat and head down to the Athenium theatre. As Barnum and Bailey would say this is ‘The Greatest Show on Earth”,
While not an officially sanctioned Star Wars production this is a most amusing parody of a classic in the great tradition of Burlesque. Without giving too much away many of the most memorable scenes from The Empire Strikes Back are re-enacted for our enjoyment.
Star Wars The Burlesque has been performed around the world. London, Chicago, Los Angeles and Sydney have seen various incarnations of the show performed to sell out audiences. Now it has made the light speed jump to Melbourne.
The Wookiee Hunter girls are a highlight to watch out for, with fluffy Wookiee bikini’s and hollowed out Wookiee heads these are perhaps the cutest of all fuzzy bears. While this attention grabbing trio perform on stage the audience is held spell bound, though no Jedi mind tricks are required.
Darth Vader takes on a whole new look with black PVC from head to toe, a sight to behold in itself. The use of PVC costumes continues with a trio of Stormtroopers with their sights set on recapturing Luke Skywalker, and our hearts. The Stormtroopers performing a song and dance takes a Mel Brooks approach to the theater. Although it may be more apt to describe it as Mel Brooks with a healthy dash of Striptease – the movie -.
Tasia as the lead puts here many talents to use performing multiple roles throughout the show, keep an eye out for Princess Leia. Billie Bradshaw the contortionists plays Boba Fett amongst other characters. As Boba Fett she performs her contortionist act with an incredible sense of balance and poise.
The cast also includes Imogen Kelly, Moaning at Midnight, Kael Murray, Lucille Spielfuchs and Paige Louisa Morse. These are the girls of Jaded Vanities.
So now it’s Melbourne’s turn to experience the delight that is Burlesque with a Star Wars twist, a show brought to us by Russall Beattie and his Jaded Vanities.
In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald Beattie commented on the LA show and his inspiration, “I was just very disappointed,” he said. “[The LA show] was not a great example of what could have been done with such an amazing thing in quite a loose and exciting genre like burlesque. This is the problem I have with a lot of contemporary burlesque. After doing it for 10 years and working around the world, I get quite bored of just going through the motions of striptease.” Beattie goes on to describe his show “All our acts are sexually charged without being gratuitous.”
Even though Beattie bemoaned the Los Angeles version of the shows focus on striptease, he must have been reasonably impressed with the production as it inspired him to produce the local interpretation.
The infamous Los Angeles version of the show played at the club The Devils Playground and would eventually go on to become by far the most famous, having generated a massive buzz amongst the US west coast science fiction fraternity.
Courtney Cruz, the producer and star of the LA spectacular has developed a reputation for writing an outstanding Burlesque show that combines Burlesque with counter cultural influences. Her latest shows continue this tradition with subjects as diverse as Girl Gamers, Zombies and Vampires.
The term Burlesque itself dates back to the early 17th century with Francesco Berni’s Opere burlesque. The opera had circulated for many years as a manuscript before eventually being printed and performed. During it’s early evolution burlesque verses and plays were known as poesie bernesca in his honor. The term ‘Burlesque’ became more widespread in the 17th century, with performances in Italy and France establishing the genre.
By the late 17th century Burlesque had spread to England as a form of humorous parody – some say grotesque imitation – that also offered titillations of the cultural norms.
The parody and commentary of the Burlesque was applied retrospectively to works of Chaucer, Shakespeare and to the Graeco-Roman classics, the cultural highlights of their era. Using these cultural standards as a base to parody society, shinning the mirror back on society while keeping a cheeky grin and a wink.
Titillations that often had nothing to do with the amount of skin on show but instead referred to the push against assumed cultural standards. The fact that women were on stage performing was in itself a parody- rebellion – of the ridiculous state of English theater at the time, women weren’t allowed to play on stage. Ridiculous to the extent that men would commonly dress as women to fill the roles.
The evolution of Burlesque continued in England with the influence of the classic English pantomime, which also relied on an exaggerated form of reality / normality.
The 18th century saw Burlesque split into High Burlesque and Low Burlesque. High Burlesque assumed a high level of literary knowledge in order to understand the parody. Low Burlesque ignored those literary norms and went for laughs, guttural humour if you will. In fact many Low Burlesque performances parodied the High Burlesques assumptions of intelligence.
The evolution of Burlesque continued to spread and evolve, the mid 1800′s saw it journey further abroad to America. The American Burlesque tradition saw a more cabaret style evolve. The strip tease had become a popular part of the burlesque cabaret shows, along with bawdy comedy routines and the odd black and white minstrel reference.
The introduction of prohibition - 1920 to 1933 – saw the clubs and theaters hosting burlesque shows shut down. By the 1950′s when America entered it’s Happy Days period – clean cut – the Burlesque had almost completely gone out of fashion, replaced with back street strip clubs.
At its heart, throughout this history Burlesque has been intentionally ridiculous, using the ridiculous to point out the strange norms that form throughout society. Today it parodies societies norms in just the same way, in fact the statement is still pretty much the same, we take ourselves far too seriously far too often.
The resurgence of Burlesque through performers such as Dita Von Tease has seen a new generation of Burlesque make a welcome return to popular culture.
Star Wars Burlesque
The original Star Wars Trilogy are three of the most influential Sci-Fi films of all times. Considered perfection by the multitude of its fan – Highpants included -. To improve on perfection is one of life’s greatest challenges. The challenge has been accepted by Russall Beattie and his Burlesque troop of Jaded Vanities.
Mixing two of your favorite things can produce something new and special, but like mixing colors sometimes it just makes brown. Here at Highpants two of our favorite things, science fiction and burlesque have been mixed just right. Producing gold, pure gold. The golden result, Star Wars The Burlesque show.
The classically styled Athenaeum Theatre is the venue, be sure to dress in your Sunday Sci-Fi best and be ready for the show of your life. Tickets are $65 through Ticketek. With opening night fast approaching, Saturday 25th of February 2012 at 8:30PM, tickets are limited so get in before they sell out.
They defend our freedom, stand up against the evils of the empire, now they are here to fight for your right to party.