Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Cellblock Booty, Preview article, May 1, 2008
by Ash Flanders & Declan Greene, Sisters Grimm
Collingwood Underground Arts Park, May 1 to May 11, 2008
Article by: Kate Herbert
Sisters Grimm co-creators, the bright-faced and deliciously boyish Ash Flanders and Declan Greene, are hell bent on reinventing theatre by genetically crossing it with trash cinema, drag acts and farce. The latest hybrid, Cellblock Booty, sees a French-Dominican nun incarcerated in a tough women’s prison with a sadistic lesbian matron. There is torture, murder, knife-fights, sexploitation and everything else gratuitous, cheesy and hilarious.
“We’ve been wanting to do a women-in-prison play for two years but we didn’t know how it would look,” says Flanders. When they saw B-grade movie director, Roger Corman’s Women in Cages, the style for their new show was born: sexy, sleazy, exploitative, ridiculous and high camp. The show is an homage to Corman, the creator of The Little Shop of Horrors and other trashy horror movies.
“Our aim is to bring liveness back into theatre,” says Flanders. “Gore, nudity, swearing - anything that engages the audience and brings the fun back. To see someone stab themselves and blood pour everywhere – it’s good in a movie but you’ve seen it a hundred times. On stage it’s amazing.”
Sisters Grimm choose archetypal stories: a prison breakout (Cellblock Booty), a revolution in a hobo village (Bumtown) or children locked in a basement (Mommie and the Minister).
The style of performance – grotesque, vivid and stylised – is epitomised in the 8-foot drag queen prison matron played by Simon Morrison Baldwin. “She’s huge. She’s terrifying. The sight of him as a woman is one of the best sight gags because he’s so tall and imposing,” says Flanders.
This big, bad, bold work appeals to a new audience that does not normally attend theatre. Sisters Grimm aim to provide “independent raw theatre” as an alternative to major theatre companies, in the same way that the music and movie industries provide choices ranging downward from Hollywood blockbusters and big-budget commercial music.
Their unconventional choice of venue – the Collingwood Underground Arts Park – has added appeal for their alternative, young, non-theatre-going audience. It is a scruffy, disused parking lot. “This space is a huge concrete block which is great for a cell block,” says Flanders.
Cellblock Booty promises to push the boundaries of good taste with its impudence and wicked sense of humour. You have been warned!
By Kate Herbert