ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Undressing Room

The Adelaide Fringe Festival's The Undressing Room is a brand new show for Imogen Kelly. A NIDA graduate and a notorious burlesque performer who calculates she has undressed for more than 1, 000, 000 people.
ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Undressing Room
The Adelaide Fringe Festival: The Undressing Room The red lights turn on and the audience is met with a pink flamingo dressed up as a giant areola, from beneath protrudes two skinny high-heeled clad legs. A little shake of feathers, a dance that reveals a taut 30 something body stuck atop the legs and a screech, “woo-hoo”. A lady in panties looks at us expectantly, “woo-hoo”. Perhaps it is the ageing crowd, the 7.45pm performance slot, but the crowd sit silent. Rolling off Kelly’s tongue, she tells us “You are about to see a show so splendid, so hot, you will be so turned on that you will forget all your troubles”. In indignant protest the middle-aged men grab hold of their partner’s hands. The Undressing Room – The Perilous Pitfalls of Professional Peeling is a brand new show for Imogen Kelly. A NIDA graduate and a notorious burlesque performer who calculates she has undressed for more than 1, 000, 000 people. Kelly co produced the performance troupe Gurlesque, she also co produced and performed in Tarnished and was the winner of the Best Physical Theatre Show for Adelaide Fringe 2007. The show deals with the troubles of the ‘glorified stripper’, the art of revealing as much as possible without being arrested. She satirises stripping with lengthy sequences of projected imagery, sometimes humorous, oft long and cringe worthy. She teases us with dialogue about what she is going to do for us, but frustratingly never does much. All I could think of was a time when one of these now middle-aged men might have interjected with “Show us ya tits!” Kelly’s alter ego’s, an even more than normal, aberrant Gia Gia Gabor, a characterless Marie Antoinette and a macabre Princess Diana, all hate men. The men are referred to as monsters and each ego admits to the feelings of being owned and controlled, and finally being referred to as a silly little girl. Honing her inner vamp Kelly declares, “No! I’m not a silly little girl”. Insert Nouvelle Vague, a light musical relief from the dreary soul I was watching teetering over the stage. The supposed queen of Burlesque projects a sequence of coarsely chopped up footage of legendary female stars, the sexy women of Hollywood. I wonder is this a way of reassuring herself? Is it a reflection of her inner turmoil portrayed in the guise of art? The footage ends with a quote by Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest “Don’t fuck with me fellas”! I begin to realise that this is a bitter feminist critique on the oppression of women but donned in a pair of glittery knickers. A stripper trying to validate her profession, telling us why she is a real woman with a voice, she made her choice and no man put her there, and no man is going to get what he wants from her? But, he might! The scene changes were long, in parts the performance was clever and perhaps Kelly was once the queen of burlesque, unfortunately like Marie Antoinette, her play should have been sent to the guillotine. I felt like she was trying to further educate and advocate the need for gender equality by qualifying her own choice to strip. I felt that the content was not entirely of its time and when a feminist is screaming at you in a g-string and feathered nipple tassels, do they really think we’re listening? I realise I was privy to the preview performance, and really, I want to like it. I wanted to appreciate the satire, the skill that she clearly had had, but the script was confused and needed more punch. The Undressing Room needs a good rehearsal. Although obvious in choice, the soundtrack is fun but the volume was timid and the sound and lighting tech need to know when to play their part, not be told by Kelly. If you’re someone with a bung heart, who ordinarily can’t go on roller coasters or experience too much excitement, then The Undressing Room will be well worth your dollars. If, like me, you want to go and watch someone perform without having to qualify each step of the way, then maybe you’re better off at home with a good movie! The Adelaide Fringe Festival: The Undressing Room The Old Queens Theatre, Playhouse Lane & Gilles Arcade in Adelaide city to 21 March. Tickets cost from $19* - $24 / and on Tuesday all tickets are $15. Warning: Contains Some Coarse Language

Erin Keys

Friday 13 March, 2009

About the author

I began my academic career studying English until a sharp raise of the finger to the great literary legends led me to the Cultural Studies and Critical Theory department; subsequently removing the paisley quilt from over my eyes I began writing essays that were met with very unappreciative F’s. Introduced to metal in 1999, I replaced the pen with a hammer and established a contemporary jewellery arts practice. I left Australia to travel to Eastern Europe and lived in Bosnia Herzegovina with anarchist misfits, renegade punks and lost souls; working on leftist projects, punk music festivals and developing a healthy appetite for their national backyard brew rakija*. Writing ‘Silent Observations’ an English observational section in a confused anarchic neo communist zine project I was eventually in much need for a shower and returned to Australia and joined the Metal Design Studio JamFactory - Centre for Contemporary Craft and Design in 2008 where I continue to make art. *Rakija is closely related to paint thinner.