The Anywhere Festival is a great opportunity to see new work, and visit fresh venues around the city. The Sip Café has a great location, and it looks like it serves a good breakfast: just across the road from the river at 54 Vernon Terrace, Teneriffe. I shall certainly look to pop along again and sample the menu. However, I did wonder what passers-by thought was going on as a dozen or so of us sat in a semi-circle, on Sunday evening, watching what might have appeared to be striptease. Memo to self: re-read the description of an event booked a few weeks earlier before you go.
I was part of the audience on the final night of the short Anywhere Festival Brisbane run of The Poor Slob & The Good Fairy, staring Lola the Vamp. Dr Lola Montgomery is a graduate of Griffith University’s School of Humanities, with a PhD in burlesque—and was film director, film and burlesque performer, and show producer. The show was a combination of silent film (with appropriate background music), interspersed with burlesque performances by one of the film characters ‘in the flesh,’ and concluding with a performance of ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.'
Le Pauvre Bougre et le bon génie, the 1899 Parisian cabaret script by Alphonse Allais is a witty, 600-word, short story about the encounter between a poor chap, absinthe, and what I thought of as the spirit in a bottle (a genie—or in this performance, a fairy). Directed by Lola Montgomery, and starring Lola The Vamp, Eric Meredith, and Mina Von Lustern, the re-imagining of the story as The Poor Slob & The Good Fairy was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. The audience on 17th May seemed to find some of the earlier lines of the film amusing, but there was less laughter as the story unfolded. I quite enjoyed the film: Mina Von Lustern (William Ferguson) played the character of the waiter with style, Lola The Vamp was a coquettish and alluring 'Good Fairy,' and the sepia tones and typeface for the script were well-chosen.
I also liked the idea of the fairy interrupting the film: bringing it to life, and perhaps also a reference to intervals projectionists needed when changing show reels for early films. I had anticipated that the live performances might link in more closely with the story told in the film (I am guessing that perhaps these were representations of some of the Parisian dancers and performers that the “poor slob” was to spend his last francs on?). But I would suggest that the interjections would be better achieved if there was a corresponding shift in lighting and sound. A fellow Anywhere Festival reviewer commented on lighting and technical problems on the opening night. At the end of the run we experienced fewer technical issues, but I struggled a little with the sound and lighting. For example, I missed most of the short introductory speech. I also felt that the lighting needs to be addressed (even if just with investment in a couple of lamps). I am all for creating an atmosphere, but there is a balance to be had between low light and being able to see (and hear) a performer. Rather than heralding the change in pace with music and lighting, Lola the Vamp had to tell the audience that “this is the burlesque bit.” But perhaps that’s all part of the new burlesque, or retro-burlesque, which I now discover is part of Australian Absinthe Culture (see absinthe.com.au).
I am sure that show will continue to evolve and develop. As Lola the Vamp noted, in the concluding speech, events such as the Anywhere Festival allow performers to test their work out and to experience ‘self-producing.’ Perhaps with a bigger budget, better lighting, and more robust technical equipment, the show will be more successful. For future publicity, I’d suggest that the producers consider adding in a more accurate estimate of running time, and perhaps also make the age guide part of the show description (there was an MA15+ reference, but only next to the running time, under the address). Paying audiences might expect that shows will approximately to the time advertised (17th May was the final night of the short run, when the show ran for half of its advertised time). Of course, if they had noticed the show was advertised as 90min then potential audiences would have also seen the MA15+ guide. And, after all, perhaps few under-16s would be out in Teneriffe at 830pm on a Sunday; they’d be getting an early night before calling in for their Sip Café chia and coconut pud in the morning.