I’m still not sure if Busting Out is a boob-lover’s delight or worst nightmare. What these two women can do with their boobies is, well, not what I’d call titillating, but it is entertaining. Oh yes. It is entertaining. And these gals suffer for their art. I mean they peg a sheet out to dry between their nipples. They gaffer tape their breasts to their shoulders and then twist them up like fleshy corkscrews and stand proud as they whip back in a flurry of fecund flesh. Yes people. Gaffer tape.
Busting Out is Puppetry of the Penis and Menopause the Musical rolled into one. Emma Powell and Louise Steele perform norkilific tricks alongside stand-up, music, comedy skits, and some hearty celebrating of womankind – sort of. While there is a whole lot of lamenting over lost perkiness at post-baby, 40-something age, and much lampooning of the younger (and therefore presumably) thinner woman, there is often more lamenting than celebrating going on. Still, that hardly seemed to put a dampener on the capacity crowd, who were so revved up they were back in their seats, waiting for more, long before the end of interval.
Before said interval, Emma Powell delivered a musical stand-up routine that was, in many ways, the highlight of the show. And there weren’t even any boobs in it! (Well, not naked ones anyway.) Powell, who’s been in Les Miserables, The Pirates of Penzance, Kiss Me Kate, and starred alongside Topol in Fiddler on The Roof, has a cracker of a voice and is a skilful and confident comedienne. She had the mostly female audience, yours truly included, crying with laughter at her brash and bawdy banter. After belting out a ripping Tina Turner number she crossed her legs and said, “I’m glad you enjoyed that because I just did a little bit of wee.” And so the female-centric jokes continued: incontinence, sagging boobies, the obligatory period mishaps while wearing white pants (which Powell dubbed ‘The Japanese Flag’, and then kindly explained to some confused looking men whose faces soon turned from confused to out and out horrified), mammograms, expanding waist-lines, g-strings that cut your farts in half…
Busting Out cleverly builds a level of anticipation by postponing the “big reveal” until after Powell’s stand-up act – or foreplay, as they called it - and the (early by usual standards) interval. But, despite knowing what we were going to see, it was still a shock when Powell and Steele finally did whip their tops off. And then the tricks began: the ‘barmaid’ has to be seen to be believed, (alas, this reviewer realised she will never have the necessary equipment to perform such a feat) and Batman, The Vagina, and The Taj Mahal were personal favourites. The ‘shadow puppet’ tricks really were brilliant.
The second half is not the slick production that Menopause the Musical is, but it’s still a hoot(ers) (sorry). It’s the choreography that lets the show down - there are more than a few flat spots that don’t quite fit the feel of the rest of the show, and it mostly comes back to the choreography and some awkward blocking. Also apparent is the mismatch in performance abilities between Powell and Steele. Steele is no singer, but neither does she pretend to be, so the pair are set up as a sort-of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis combination. The problem here is that when you’re playing the foil you need to have impeccable timing and comedic skills, and Steele doesn’t quite deliver.
When all’s said and done though, it didn’t seem to matter much, judging from the crowd’s response. I mean, these gals got two audience members up on stage showing their own boobies to the crowd! That’s persuasive! And what’s that if not celebrating womanhood? The show really does create a safe and celebratory environment, and it was clear by the end that most of the women there didn’t want to leave (and the men couldn't wipe the smiles off their faces). And really, with a finale that features big bouncing breasts floating around the auditorium and a rousing chorus of It’s Raining Tits, who could blame us?
Editor’s Note: Australian Stage has been advised by the producers of Busting Out! that in the performance we reviewed (Sunday 26 July) performer Louise Steel, at short notice, filled in for regular cast member Bev Killick, who regrettably missed her first performance in 18 months. We understand Bev Killick is now back performing in the show.
AG Productions present
Emma Powell & Bev Killick in
Venue: The Athenaeum Theatre |188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: From June 11
Bookings: Ticketmaster (03) 9650 1500 or 1300 136 100