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last days of raunch at lanfranchi’s

fiona macgregor revels in u little stripper!

Fiona Macgregor’s new novel, Indelible Ink, and Strange Museums, a book about Poland and performance art, will be published in 2008.

Justin Shoulder - U Little Stripper! Justin Shoulder - U Little Stripper!
photo Alex Davies
WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES A PERFORMANCE NIGHT WORK? A SERENDIPITOUS BREW OF SKILL, TALENT, PRODUCTION AND ATMOSPHERE. BUT SOMETHING ELSE IS NEEDED, SOMETHING ELUSIVE AND UNNAMEABLE TO BOLSTER ALL THESE THINGS. AS WELL AS A GOOD DOSE OF BAD ATTITUDE AND RADICAL POLITICS, A GOOD NIGHT HARNESSES AND PRODUCES A TYPE OF CARNAL FREEDOM, UNIQUE TO SYDNEY, THAT IS IN SAD DECLINE THIS CENTURY.

Matt Stegh and Matt Hornby, who with the help of a small crew produced U Little Stripper! in June at Lanfranchi’s, can take a lot of credit for keeping alive Sydney’s bawdy, larrikin performance traditions. They began with the community event Man Jam, whose purpose was to promote sexy performance by men and poke fun at all-male revues. They were reacting to the absence of men on stage at alternative events, and the plastic aesthetic of mainstream gay performance and striptease. Man Jam produced a couple of nights at unlicensed venues during which a flood of talented, wild blokes strutted their stuff to packed houses. Then, having proved their point, they opened the doors to women, and realised their full potential in a pansexual incarnation. The events were in the subversive Weimar tradition of sex and satire. They moved to 34b on Oxford Street and, although the occasional great show was still to be seen, licensing laws and burnout effectively gagged the original intentions. The boys wisely had a rest. They returned with U Little Stripper! (ULS), a striptease performance night held the weekend before legendary art warehouse Lanfranchi’s was closed.

Lucky early punters were greeted by a human cake in high heels, wearing a ledge crammed with hand-made profiteroles. The stage in the main room was done in black velvet, and the other room was a dance floor which filled during interval.

Justin Shoulder is an exciting young artist who has produced an array of costumes that Leigh Bowery would be proud of. His full face and body sculptures are animist, absurdist, whimsical and monstrous. Shoulder understands proportion and character. He also knows how to inhabit his creations and make them move. He often performs with a percussion ensemble, enhancing the Asian inflection of some pieces. For ULS, he made a shiny red dog with pointy ears, long snout and big shaggy body, which turned out to be a clever series of fringed panels deftly removed one by one. The head-dress stayed on, the final vision a lithe body with dog head, dancing on a red sea.

Vixen Noir is an Australian based US stripper who has appeared at Gurlesque and Vanessa Wagner’s Newtown Hotel nights, and for many years been involved in queer activist performance. She’s slick and sassy, and works in a traditional twenty minute format, with a twist.

Kimo, F2M, relatively new to performing, brings to mind old school queer punk. Almost twenty years ago, Wicked Women pioneered a brand of feminist sex positive performance motivated by the need for dykes to smash shame and political correctness, and flaunt their bodies in public. Kimo is one of many who couldn’t exist without this legacy, and F2Ms are the new frontier. Kimo was crude and celebratory, rewarded like everyone by the hugely supportive crowd.

Max Imum was a schoolgirl lured by Mephisto to the Dark Abyss. In an hilariously sinister performance, Mephisto raped the girl before she turned on him with her fists. It was the classic revenge scenario refreshed by witty repartee, the casting of a fluffy puppet as Mephisto, some fine fight choreography and Max’s joyous, unbridled triumph.

The cops arrived at some stage, and would return the next week during Lanfranchi’s farewell party, when they entered and physically harassed people. But at ULS the jubilation, defiance and excitement were unquenchable.

The two Matts presented a madcap, surreal caper with a whiff of fin de siècle decadence. Dickie and Dickie were limp-wristed ponces who minced about in high cut trousers and cravats, bragging and bitching. It was like a one act play, complete with bizarre medley, choreographed number and semi-coherent dialogue pierced by fey screams. The Dickies slept in matching red satin gowns beneath a silver satin sheet...covered in brown stains. Half the action took place behind beautifully painted peacock screens with holes cut out for the performers’ faces as they dressed for a ball. They emerged in nude suits with knee length gonads and pencil penises.

Simone O’Brien and Nicci Wilkes (Guido) were newly weds in a side-splitting slapstick routine that featured domestic violence, an interactive cake-cutting ritual and a creamy blowjob, throughout which the groom’s yelling could be heard over the Billy Idol soundtrack, all the way to the back of the room. This show featured the best drag—both boy and girl—seen in a long time.

The sexiest man on Sydney stages must be Trash Vaudeville who graced ULS as a slender butch cowboy in tight black flares and ripped knickers. He is that rare thing—a master male hula hoopist who puts his own touch to an array of skilful tricks. After a nude trapeze interlude he gave us multiple hoops at the end, then the big finger.

Annabel Lines, seasoned circus performer, was classy and nasty in equal measure. She began with legs—in suspenders, fishnets and red pumps—disembodied, contorting. Her body gradually emerged, a dominatrix in cat’s eye glasses, black lace and long gloves. Two clowns upstage holding her hoop completed the picture of vaudi glamour.
Christa Hughes, U Little Stripper! Christa Hughes, U Little Stripper!
photo Alex Davies
Christa Hughes has developed a unique gender fuck striptease for events by this collective. She does a mean lip sync to macho soundtracks, tonight’s a leathered up rock star exhorting the stadium to indulge in mind-altering substances. She stripped to Love is the Drug, and finished with her signature tune The Lady is a Tramp, high kicking naked in long black boots. Hughes’ voice is consistently powerful, able to effect immediate changes in emotional register, the dodgy sound system no impediment.

Hughes was followed by her sister Vashti, as Uncle Funky, who gives excellent mike: “Fucken oath, how sexy was that Sheila? I wanna fucken meet her, and I mean m-e-a-t. I can’t help it, I’m a bloke, and I’ve got feelings.” Uncle Funky is a computer nerd who reinvented himself as a professional stripper, in baseball hat and Bonds singlet. With all the élan of his previous incarnation, he stripped down to an elephant glove puppet.

Celia Curtis and Dave Disaster performed a duet in fringed white costumes. It was vintage 1970s irony complete with wind machine, ending in an egg and feather fight. Curtis is capable of better—she is sheer genius at her best—but this was a fittingly funny and cathartic ending to the night.

At least that’s what we thought. The strip karaoke was yet to begin. The pandemonium let loose by the performers had set the room on fire and audience members began to get on stage and strip in an unstoppable stream—men, women, gay and straight. U Little Stripper! had achieved its purpose—liberation.

The strip karaoke revealed the true nature of the night, which was about celebrating what it means to be free and alive: and enjoying your body, to the fullest. Which might not sound like much, but in an age of puritanism, proscription and punishment, could well be the most radical thing of all.


U Little Stripper!, Lanfranchi’s Memorial Disco, Sydney, June 10

Fiona Macgregor’s new novel, Indelible Ink, and Strange Museums, a book about Poland and performance art, will be published in 2008.

RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 34

© Fiona McGregor; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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