Private Dancer (R18)
11/09/2006 - 14/09/2006
Ms Fortuna is cheeky, flirtatious and sumptuous. She seduces while her companion, Mr Henry Symes keeps the alcohol flowing and the raffle wheel spinning. Private Dancer is everything you have ever wanted in a cabaret show but were too afraid to ask… nudity, feisty table dancing, wild stories, prizes galore and some shocking dance routines.
Wed 11 – Sat 14 October Galatos 9pm 90 mins
$40 plus booking fees from Ticketek (R18)
Review by Nik Smythe 12th Oct 2006
I confess I had a preconception what I thought this Aussie import would be like. Although the Tempo festival programme blurb doesn’t actually make any such allusion on a second reading, I somehow got an idea this was to be a poignant satire about the dark world of red-light district entertainment. On seeing the show I feel they have achieved something like that, but it doesn’t quite come across as intentional. If it is, the sassy Ms Fortuna and her sleazy gay MC Mr. Henry Symes are so methodically absorbed in their characters it’s a holistically dramatic experience we are immersed in, not just simple satire, whether you realise it or not.
Private Dancer does appear to genuinely try to be a bawdy evening of risqué humour and saucy dancing. What it actually is is cheap, trashy and crass, with all its merchandise and raffles for frozen chickens, lap dances, and other surprises I guess I ought not to spoil. These things strike me as clues that they are really showing up how sad and easily manipulated through obvious sexual ploys people are. One of these is the wheel of fortune, with numerical dollar amounts all round it, although no cash was produced at any time the wheel was spun.
In general, the response on the night was polarised. Some tables in the 100-or-so strong audience appeared to have a ball; others were nonplussed and/or disappointed. People at my table felt that the opening number, an upbeat version of ‘Welcome to Our world’ danced entirely nude, effectively takes all the erotic mystery out of the subsequent showcase. Indeed it does – another clue? Ultimately, I wonder how many people actually found any part of the night’s events erotic.
A major clue is that by and large the show lacks a level of class one would expect from a show that claims to be ‘everything you ever wanted in a cabaret show but were too afraid to ask’. I can’t say I saw much that I’ve always wanted. Certainly not ‘Lady in Red’, although the title song is a favourite (and probably the reason for my aforementioned preconception) … I want slickness, style, pizzazz. But all that’s just me.
So, what about the performances? Ms Fortuna is spunky and likeable, and valiantly breathed a kind of easy-going energy into the piece to make it less awkward and embarrassing on the whole than it might have been otherwise. Her toned and well proportioned body is worthy of worship and she can in fact dance. Mr. Henry Symes played deadpan, with jaded arrogance of a jaded pimp. I didn’t find him very humorous, except partly in a ‘funny coz it’s not’ way.
Highlights of the evening included Ms Fortuna’s outrageous outfits – I couldn’t decide between the ‘Lady in Red’ dress and the outrageous orange disco-suit for my favourite, but I’ll go with the latter since I hate that song – and the ‘hat trick’ contest (buy a hat and then try to win a prize doing a trick with it! Shameless!), in which the winning competitor (name suppressed) used a hidden water bottle to pretend to wizz in his hat, and then put it on, soaking himself with implied urine. It was even tackier than most of the written gags but it did get the greatest applause of the night.
I feel I must apologise to the company if I appear to be critiquing their work at cross-purposes. If they’re simply trying to be funny, bawdy, shallow entertainment with engaging dance routines, then they’ve missed the mark. If they are deliberately expressing the pathos of our lonely and vulnerable sexualities, it certainly does that, though the edges are (intentionally?) blurred.
Another possible effect at play here is the culture clash between our great nations; Aussies and their strong gutter instinct versus Kiwis, particularly the show going sort, who are more uptight and demanding of sophistication (the Aussie might say ‘pretension’). The more I go on the more questions I think of, so it’s fair to say that this show got me thinking, if nothing else. The abbreviated cop-out version might have read ‘I just don’t know what hit me.’
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