As the title suggests you’re in for some onstage live action carnage in Cellblock Booty currently showing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
This is a tough gig for me both to watch & to review. I think it is similarly tough for audiences. Tough in that, it is one of those shows that will polarise opinion. I have friends who saw Cellblock Booty on the same night I did and loved it, thinking it a work of comic genius. The row of ladies in front of me laughed an awful lot – but they had glasses of wine in their hands (& judging by their cackles, this was not the first cheap red of the evening!). Others around me seemed bewildered much of the time. Still others laughed long & loud. A few walked out.
As the title suggests you’re in for some onstage live action carnage in Cellblock Booty currently showing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Blood, gore, nudity, violence, sleaze, melodrama, sadomasochism, electroshock therapy. Men in frocks. Men out of frocks. Women out of frocks. Big costume changes. Leather. Whips. (Sounds like a Liberal Party convention.)
It is a pastiche? Homage? Parody? Reinvention & rejuvenation?
It’s a something of the sexploitation films of the 60s & 70s. I don’t know how good your knowledge of sexploitation films is (yeah yeah, I hear you ask, “sexploy-what?”) but there are a wide range of subgenres. The one which concerns us is “Women in Prison”. (My expert knowledge is thanks to “Chad” a previous housemate of mine who was a big fan of Russ Meyer & Jesus Franco. Yeah, sure glen! He was!!!) The creators of Cellblock cite their auteur as Roger Corman. Same man, different cage.
Technically, the work is high quality. The script (term used loosely – it’s a sexploitation ripoff remember, so it’s not exactly rocket surgery) does all it is meant to: ie, innocent girl (in this case Sister Dominique of Order of the Little Wing) is thrown into prison. Why? Don’t remember. Doubt it’s important, she doesn’t belong there. She befriends one inmate, makes an enemy of another, pisses off the Matron, escapes & “grows up” along the way. Nuff said.
What it does is give the cast a chance to sing, dance & flex their acting muscles" for although it’s over-the-top, high camp, & incredibly silly, the saving grace for me is that the performers are extremely capable & entertaining. Their performances are big, strong and funny. Their tongues are firmly in their cheeks when they’re not poking them out.
Standouts performers are Tanya Weiler who plays the only black woman, Butterfly with brashness & attitude (& perhaps just a touch of “Talk To The Hand” Jerry Springer inspired trailer trash). Kiloran Hiscock as the wide eyed & innocent Sister Dominique is beguiling & ballsy. But before I list them all, the whole cast is strong.
The director has chosen clever ways of staging scenes which reflect the editing techniques of film; including, striking poses, dramatic head turns, holding stares for a long time (it almost felt as if we were zooming in on the actors) & bad dancing to psychedelic music, however, this latter device wore thin after a while.
That said, why didn’t it work for me?
I guess my main question is why do it at all?
I’m no prude. Nothing in here offended me. I’ve already seen my share of private parts made public this Fringe. In fact, it wouldn’t be a Fringe if you didn’t see some. But this performance, for all its skill, cleverness, competence & creativity … just left me cold. Or maybe that was just the outdoor venue, late on an Adelaide night.
However, I have no doubt it will appeal to a large section of people who just want a bit of skin & silliness. And that’s fine too. Just take a glass of vino with you. It’ll probably help … & it sure as heck won’t hurt.
The show is playing at the The Garden of Unearthly Delights until 21 March and ticket range from $12.75 to $22.75
Presented by Sisters Grimm
Adelaide Fringe Festival