Left – Imogen Kelly. Photo – caveboy studios
How can I put this... I loved this show so much I want to marry it. Only she's such a wild, rebellious, independent creature that I'll have to settle for the brief, deliriously dirty little fling we had last night.
Former Burlesque Queen Of The World Imogen Kelly has assembled some seriously kooky, seriously talented girls for a very short season of burlesque that although part of the Midsumma Festival – a celebration of all things queer – actually has universal appeal. This universal appeal could be due to the abundance of lady flesh on show, but more likely it's due to the humour; there is a lot of very hilarious fun to be had.
Staged in The Wonderland Spiegeltent (currently situated in that weird part of town near that big ferris wheel thing at Docklands), Bend was roughly two hours jam-packed with burlesque vignettes diverse in the way the performers got their kit off, but similar in their wild hilarity and their celebration of feminititty.
The stars tonight were Imogen herself, Lillian Starr, Glita Supernova, Betty Grumble and Lilikoi Kaos – all Sydneysiders except for Melbourne's Lilikoi Kaos. The girls clearly enjoyed their own time in the spotlight but seemed equally delighted with each others performances. If you could look beyond the craziness that was going on (the warnings about how shocking the show might get weren't entirely unjustified... Imogen put that icecream cone where?), there was a kind of warmth in the support the performers showed for each other. All seemed filled with admiration and respect for each other and the respect Imogen was given for being such a driving force of the Australian burlesque scene for so long gave me the warm and fuzzies. Love and respect were in the air, and it was a cool thing.
But enough of warmth and fuzziness. This is burlesque, baby, bent burlesque. Imogen Kelly's opening sketch set the tone for the evening. Lady In Red was all croony smoothness until the very elegant Miss Kelly's head turned into her boobs and nether regions and she put a frankfurt into her face. If this sounds a little bit strange, that's because it was a little bit strange. And funny. So funny. Throughout the night Imogen Kelly presented a kind of relaxed comedic presence that was an absolute pleasure to watch. She has a wonderful sense of the absurd. And she has a very nice bottom and looks sensational even when she's wearing her daughter's tutu on her head.
In no particular order we had an inventive look at aviatrix Amelia Earheart's last flight, from Lillian Starr, which involved some impressive DIY bondage; Some amazing hoop work from Lilikoi Kaos – and she did that routine with the spoon that made me squirm so much last time I saw it and even more this time; some quality stand up comedy from Imogen (if she ever gets tired of taking her clothes off for us, which we obviously hope she doesn't, live comedy will probably be her thing; there was a routine from a Smurf; some slightly surreal retro stuff; and some weirdly hypnotic stuff from Betty Grumble, who stole the show just a little bit with her grotesque take on the art of burlesque.
I'm not sure exactly what was going on with Betty Grumble, and I may be way off target here, but she almost appeared to be parodying the male drag concept; she can take it one step further than the boys because she is all woman. She has an impressive stage presence and is made up of a crazy mixture grace (she can move), sexiness, shamelessness and grotesqueness. It's a brave concoction executed perfectly.
This was, unfortunately, a micro-season of Bent Burlesque and you have missed it. But the show in various forms does pop up from time to time, and if you're a fan of this form of entertainment, do keep an eye out for the collective in its entirety or any of the individual performers on other line-ups. They are all world class.
The highlight for this writer of this hilarious evening was being given an unexpected cuddle by Imogen Kelly's enormous vagina. It was a warm and special moment.
Bent Burlesque 2014
Venue: The Wonderland Spiegeltent | Cnr Pearl River & Osbervation Rds, Docklands
Dates: 31 Jan – 1 Feb, 2014
Tickets: $35 – $30