One place that has been nice and toasty over the weekend’s cold snap has been the Bluecoat, as it played host to a variety of adults-only performances that didn’t leave much to the imagination – but really had the power to open minds.
The Freak and the Showgirl on Friday was a riotous night of comedy, song and striptease courtesy of DadaFest regulars Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz.
The pair caused controversy last year by taking to the stage of the festival’s burlesque show and deliberately foregoing the ‘tease’ element of the act, making sure everybody got an eyeful and leaving organisers worried they might have to explain themselves to the police. The wonderful thing about this pair is you never forget them.
Their brand new show took their routines one step further, with the audience clearly warned before entering the room there would be nudity. Gratuitous, oh yes, but certainly not pointless. A former Miss Exotic World and Miss Coney Island, Muz’s burlesque routines are daring, funny, and the rudest you will see.
There is an intensity, and huge sexuality, to her performances that can be quite threatening to the uninitiated. The Freak and the Showgirl gave her a chance to talk with the audience (in the nip, natch) and added a dimension of understanding to her work, which is feisty, political and witty. Even when she’s making her lady parts sing ‘Hair’.
Mat Fraser, as ever, is a brilliant host, funny, commanding and professional. Together they use the show to explore issues of disability (“hundreds of years ago I would be considered a pagan abomination,” explained Fraser, whose arms are stunted because of Thalidomide – before crooning Witchcraft while Muz, in a pointed black hat, pulled the glittery guts from a baby doll behind him), gender, morality and the body politic.
It’s a lot to cram in. It was beautifully in-your-face, voracious in its sexual expressionism, but clearly never intentionally alienating.
It may not have seemed like it at first, but this was smart and funny adult entertainment that may be extreme, but at least credited its audience with the intelligence and open-mindedness to handle it. It’s not for the faint-hearted to be sure, but then again, one of the many points they were making was surely that a faint heart doesn’t really get you much.
Two days later it was on to DaDaLesque, this year hosted by Fraser with Muz among the guests, both of whom had promised to keep things decent. Established by burlesque dancer Millie Dollar, it showcases the work of a variety of performers.
Regular Anna Fur Laxis opened the show with an inventive performance in which she played a goldfish escaping from its bag; Diva Hollywood, who lives with MS, performed her Black Swan, a darkly comic performance portraying coming to terms with her condition.
Julie Atlas Muz played devilishly with the boundaries of her no-nudity clause, and special guest, the spectacularly named Jo ‘Boobs’ Weldon of the New York School of Burlesque, upped the sex factor without any of the humour or knowing wit of the other dancers.
DaDaLesque always throws in a few surprises, and it turned out that the dancer who well and truly brought the house down wasn’t a beautiful lady in a sumptuous costume. Another New Yorker with long flowing locks and a flair with a hand fan was Jonny Porkpie, who looked more Kid Rock than Dita von Teese, but his ‘boy-lesque’ was a hilarious mix of comedy and dance, set perfectly to Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance.
Beyond the tits and tassles, both of these shows had a lot to say about our bodies, they way we feel about them and the way we use them. Sexy and fun but also warm and wise, these are the kind of multi-layered, provocative and grown-up performances that are the heart and soul of DaDaFest.
Journalist Vicky Anderson also writes on what’s on the stage in Liverpool at Made Up