Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

23/05/2015 - 23/05/2015

Production Details

Each month The Menagerie brings even more colour and vibrancy to The Fringe Bar on Allen Street and aspires to celebrate the diversity and originality within Wellington performing arts.

The Menagerie is curated by Rachel Rouge, a Wellington based veteran burlesque performer who fell in love with variety shows on the Edinburgh Fringe cabaret circuit.

Rouge says “I adore variety shows, I love performing in them and I love watching them. I find is so inspiring that each performer brings their own unique set of skills, their own style and their own vision to the stage for an ephemeral shared experience.”

Each performer in The Menagerie is selected by Rouge who seeks to take the audience through a journey of exquisite and varied entertainment in every show.

This month Rouge has another strong line up featuring two local comedians with very different styles: Alice Brine and James Nokise  As well as two out of town burlesque performers: classic performer Ruby Ruin from Christchurch and comedic character performer Amourous Ava from Auckland. They will be performing along side a hoola hoopist, a fortunte teller, a poet, a drag artist and musicians.

Rouge works to create a Victorian carnival sideshow feel to the event, she is inspired by the turn of the century travelling sideshows.

“In a time where there were such ridged social rules for behaviour and attire the carnival was a place to escape and embrace the extremes of diversity, eccentricity and the extraordinary.”

Who: The Menagerie 
When: Next show – 8pm Saturday the 23rd of May 
Where: The Fringe Bar, 26 Allen Street, Wellington 


Theatre , Comedy , Burlesque ,

Diverse and eclectic

Review by Thomas Aitken 24th May 2015

At the end of every month Wellington’s Fringe Bar becomes a singing, dancing and laughing hot house of good old fashioned burlesque. The Menagerie is masterminded by Rachel Rogue who brings together a freakishly eclectic mix of talented performers for a truly unique and raunchy variety show. 

This month’s show is hosted by one of Wellington’s favourite comedic daughters Alice Brine who is tasked with the formidable job of warming up the crowd to have their minds blown. Her quick witted and chatty demeanour relaxes the crowd while her speedy delivery of obscene plot twists and teenage girl slang has the crowd in stitches. She doesn’t shy away from her self-appointed title as “Wellington’s answer to Oprah” and slays the elephant in the female comedy dressing room by announcing that yes, it is possible to be sexy and funny at the same time.  

In fact the whole evening proves that not only is it possible to be sexy and funny simultaneously but that it doesn’t have to be in a smutty way. With similar levels of nudity to your average pop music video, this evening is all about the beauty of live performance. Lovingly hand sewn and sequined pasties (nipple covers for those not privy to the burlesque slang) are everywhere from on the merchandise table to the stage, as dancers exhibit the artistry that is often forgotten when people start to dance naked. 

A last minute addition to the program sees Genevieve Fowler take on her alter ego as the teenage drag King Hugo. Energetically (yet surprisingly rhythmically) strutting his hormonal urges in a lynx heavy school uniform, Hugo provides a refreshing perspective on the world of drag. Dazzling the crowd with a lustful dance routine to a jazzed up Kiwi classic, Hugo blurs any preconceived notions of gender in the best possible way. 

Likewise, Amourous Ava, a character described as “Part wolf, part grrl and part naked,” brings out the audience’s inner freak with her hypnotic dance routine. Her set takes the audience on a groove-filled adventure that travels from a rump-shaking sea creature to a neon-clad, fun-loving go-go dancer, stopping off at a bunch of 1950s B-grade movies in between. She is also the founding editor of the zine Pastie Politics: Burlesque and Feminism in New Zealand, a sure fire way to educate yourself on the world of Burlesque, should you be that way inclined.

Ruby Ruin brings the steamy, booty-bouncing nightclubs of the Caribbean to the Fringe Bar, putting her own burlesque spin on the worlds of bounce and twerk. Feathers turn to tattoos which turn to butt cheeks bouncing and back again as Ruby’s routine holds the audience captivated. Stop by one of her ‘Twerkshops’ to learn more about the potential of your posterior.

Valerie Vendetta’s hula hooping act dazzles the audience in a similar fashion. Fusing the skill base of a circus performer with the performance of a sequined, sparkle-covered pop-star, Vendetta’s act morphs circular geometry, impressive rhythm and eye-catching costuming. Some say that if you blur your eyes slightly while she’s performing, then you might actually see golden fractal patterns occurring on the Fringe Bar stage. 

Hadassah Grace’s anecdotal style of spoken word provides moments of hilarious self-reflection while also making some serious and thought provoking points. Her poems take the audience from places of passion-filled eroticism to drugged-up sex in the woods with a sprinkling of anti-greed and dairy farming thrown in for good measure. These heartfelt poems reveal more than clothes could ever cover and her themes of sex, politics, and sexual politics make sobering yet playful points about the state of the system.

It wouldn’t be a true variety show without some sort of psychic powers and these come in the form of Moira Mackenzie, a Scottish fortune teller somewhere between Mrs Doubtfire and Professor Trelawney. Using the cheapest available deck of tarot cards and plenty of audience interaction she predicts the future in a way that oversimplifies the act of looking a short distance into the future. Sadly no major revelations to be had but the laughs are big, her set is playful and the soft scots accent is mildly hypnotic.  

Musically, the audience are serenaded by two fantastic acts. Spoink and the Luna Landa bicker over songs both uplifting and sorrowful as acoustic guitar melodies harmonise with travelling tales of lust and debauchery. Somewhere between a rockabilly Bic Runga and a travelling gypsy duo, these two songbirds complement The Menagerie’s carnival style mood beautifully. 

Travelling musician, Seth Hoffman also adds to the musical repertoire with a unique style forged on the roads somewhere between New Mexico and Amsterdam. Using a guitar, harmonica, strumstick, and loop pedal he creates layers of music that are toe tappingly catchy. Combined with the audiences volunteering of lines he creates wacky songs which take the audience on a trip through various spectrums of colour and sound. 

The cherry on top of The Menagerie’s May show is James Nokise. A nominee for both the Fred Dagg Comedy Award and the Billy T James Comedy Award, this Welsh / Samoan comedian returns from successful shows both overseas and in New Zealand to deliver big laughs in an informative way. Hailing from the Hutt, he wastes no time in stating “he’s not here to fuck spiders” and immediately launches into a fast-paced tirade against the government, the potential loss of the Hutt to flooding and the stupidity behind Australian colloquialisms. His unique views and perspectives have the audience questioning everything they know and sheepishly denying any personal prejudice against the Hutt. 

While every Menagerie show promises to be a completely different experience, it is safe to assume that Rachel Rogue will continue to compile Wellington’s most diverse and eclectic variety show. Each month promises to be a saucy and theatrical affair of laugh inducing, tear jerking, thought provoking and body rolling carnival style goodness. So start counting down the days until next month when Wellington’s carnival freaks and burlesque geeks emerge from their caravans to bring you the next instalment of The Menagerie.


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