Friday, 25 November 2016
Blaque Showgirls Nov 16, 2016 **
By Nakkiah Lui, Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until Dec 4, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs Nov 17, 2016, and later in print. KH
Bessie Holland & Elaine Crombie - photo Pia Johnson
Blaque Showgirls does include some biting, political satire, but it is scattered among too many cheap gags and poor puns to make a satisfying comedy.
Written by Nakkiah Lui, a writer-performer on Black Comedy, the ABC sketch comedy show, Blaque Showgirls follows the journey of Sarah Jane Jones, AKA Ginny (Bessie Holland), a young, fair-skinned, indigenous woman who lives in a country town called Chitole. (Yes, say it aloud and you’ll get the bad pun.)
Ginny longs to get in touch with her indigenous roots and to be, as was her late mother, a Blaque Showgirl, exotic dancer in glitzy Brisvegas.
Of course, it all goes pear-shaped for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that Ginny can’t dance, she’s does not have a Confirmation of Aboriginality certificate – at first – and she is loathed by her Blaque Showgirl idol, Chandon Connors (Elaine Crombie).
Some occasional, smart dialogue satirises politically correct language about race and culture, plays irreverently on the names of indigenous tribes, and parodies those who would take advantage by pretending to be aboriginal.
Unfortunately, these political and topical references are rare gems amongst far too much tacky and juvenile humour, cheap vulgarity and crude language passing for comedy, an example of the last being the name of the nearby, Asian-themed strip club called Sticky Kum Den. (Say that aloud, too.)
The script lacks substance and the gags are cheap, poorly written and often repetitive or embarrassing, and the production, looks like a bad high school comedy revue with amateurish direction (Sarah Giles), poor comic timing and unimaginative physical comedy.
Blaque Showgirls trades on jokes about racial stereotypes that no white performer would be permitted to use, including many jibes about the little, Asian girl, Molly (Emi Canavan) with a strong accent who works in the Kum Den where they perform the Chopstick Striptease.
The brief appearances of Aunty Mavis (Crombie) are entertaining, and one funny and more professional moment is the start of the topless Emu Dance in the nightclub when Ginny, Chandon and a third girl (Guy Simon) appear in gorgeous, feathered emu costumes (Eugyeene Teh) and compete for the limelight.
The nightclub stage design (Eugyeene Teh) provides a simple and compact proscenium stage and the incorporation of Australian rock classics, such Treaty, Solid Rock and Horses, is a highlight.
This production of Blaque Showgirls lacks finesse, is not transgressive or clever political satire and is, ultimately, very unsatisfying comedy.
By Kate Herbert