Burlesque Upon A Time

performed by Peaches ‘n’ Gin
Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre, February 21, 2011.

Peaches ‘n’ Gin are certainly making a successful name for themselves as Adelaide’s own darlings of the recent burlesque revival. Many of the local duo’s previous events at favourite venue Nexus Cabaret have sold-out, while attendance at the opening night of their new show Burlesque Upon a Time seemed to bode equally well. Arriving about ten minutes before the scheduled start time, all tables at the atmospheric cabaret lounge were already full, with those of us still coming in taking up positions towards the back and around the bar.

As with many acts of the new burlesque, this is very much a variety show. While Luna Eclipse and Sapphire Snow make up Peaches ‘n’ Gin proper, the group also includes an extended and recurring cast of other talent, who ensure the evening provides something for (just about) everybody.

Rohan Watts and Cara Louise appear first on stage, opening proceedings with puns, banter and an inviting welcome to those last few people entering the packed room. They also encourage audience participation, instructing the crowd to respond with appropriate calls at certain moments, from cheering the heroic prince, jeering at evil queens or showing appreciation at either the word or the appearance of anything “sexy.” As host, Watts continues this role throughout. Described on the group’s website as the “king of cheese,” he intersperses the dance, strip and musical numbers with increasingly (and intentionally) bad jokes to which Louise offers stern, eye-rolling foil. These interactions are some of the show’s comedic highlights, with the pair complementing each other perfectly. Along with some of Louise’s own stories, including one about the benefits of getting pulled over in full costume on the way to a show, the pair’s verbal comedy helps keep the pace engaging and balanced.

The stars of the show are, of course, Luna and Sapphire. Over sixty minutes they perform six different burlesque routines (both solo and together) that are, as they say “all about the tease.” The costumes are fun, appealing and vibrant. Particular highlights include the large green peacock feather fans used by both girls, Sapphire’s dance in the dark as Cinderella, clad only in glowing white-light underwear and tassels, as well as Luna’s silver, cape-like Ice Queen wings and sparkling tiara. All of these help make the performance a fairytale-inspired visual feast.

All of the performances are sexy, cheeky and most of all fun, which Cara Louise believes is one of the most important reasons for the popularity of burlesque. From Luna’s tassel skills that encompass unexpected locations (she was crowned Miss Tassel Twirl at last year’s Miss Burlesque Australia finals) to Sapphire’s unique tea brewing method for which this dedicated coffee drinker would switch anytime, there is a consistent sense of irreverence and playfulness that gives their performance more than just sexuality and visual appeal. This is also reflected in the enthusiasm both women have for a wide variety of dance and performance, along with teaching at their Burlesque Academy, which they plan to expand this year. Luna says that her favourite part of all Peaches n Gin’s endeavors is “watching students come out of their shells” and go from shy newcomer to confidant performer.

The only disappointment in Burlesque Upon a Time, perhaps, was the limited participation of this show’s opening night audience. It may be that more build-up and prodding was needed to get people comfortable with shouting out at the appointed times, but this may change as the show’s run continues. It could also be a lingering sense of shyness at the nature of burlesque performance, reflected also by the young man brought on stage during Sapphire’s tea party who seemed unsure where to cast his gaze.

These points are minor, however, compared to the overall sense of fun and frivolity that ran through the show. All the performers are talented and passionate about burlesque entertainment, which according to Cara Louise has seen recent success largely because audiences are sick of generic entertainment and, for women in particular, want a form that celebrates sexuality and empowerment without objectification. Burlesque is an opportunity for performers to work inside their own framework. People are also looking for the variety lacking from television (and even from other, more adult entertainment) she says, because “there’s only so many times you can see a woman take her top off.” Her own background in musical theatre and contributions to the show, including a wonderful rendition of Blossom Dearie’s jazz classic ‘To Keep My Love Alive,’ reflect the breadth of what modern burlesque has to offer.

Peaches ‘n’ Gin are at the burlesque revival’s local forefront, so if you’re interested in an evening of comedy, class, music, dance and tease and haven’t seen these ladies perform before, make sure to check out Burlesque Upon A Time at this year’s fringe. If you have seen them before, I’m sure you’ve already got your ticket.


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