It's time to honour the ass with this year's Midsumma Festival show, Baby Got Back. This one hour burlesque-circus-performance art all-female homage to the derrière is an uninhibited celebration of woman. Slut shaming or any degradation of women - whether by males or females - is not permitted here, where women are able to take pride in and control of their own bodies. Burlesque performers and producers of Baby Got Back, Vesper White and Frankie Valentine, ensure their show empowers women while entertaining the audience with some creative and ingenious performances.
The show begins strongly with a montage of scenes from various cartoons, movies and social media clips of asses, which is a great reminder of how the human posterior has been used and perceived by society. The opening performance has three performers appear wearing elaborate monstrous "pussy" cat costumes, wearing large heart-shaped collars branded with "dyke" on one, "slut" on another and "whore" on the third. By the end of the performance, these collars are ripped of and from there, it's a no-holds-barred booty-focused revelry.
Joining Vesper and Frankie on the stage are fellow burlesque performers Miss Jane Doe and 2016 Miss Burlesque Australia Bella de Jac. Rolling out the cast is the mischievous MC, Sydney’s Queen of Crude, Memphis Mae, who ensures that the performers and the audience behave themselves - to an extent. Through her hilarious powers of persuasion, she is even able to work up the entire crowd to get them to participate in "The Great Mooning".
While all the acts have a strong push on body positivity, there are some that succeed in doing this better than other acts. The skipping rope performance involving Miss Jane Doe, Bella de Jac and Vesper White has a simultaneous air of childhood innocence - before women are bombarded with societal expectations on how they should look or present themselves - with a sense of liberation and rebelliousness in seeing these naked bodies be embraced and admired. The cheeky re-imagining of Celine Dion's chart topping ballad "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" is another highlight of the show, with its rich mix of humour and feminism.
Reminiscent of a Finucane and Smith show, Baby Got Back is also savvy enough to find the right balance of entertainment while pushing its message. Through its burlesque, comedy, circus, puppetry and dance it encourages women to love their bodies and seeks to create an environment where women from all backgrounds can be accepted and free to be themselves.
Baby Got Back was performed at The Melba Spiegeltent between 2 - 4 February 2017.
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 8 February 2017.
Photo credit: Alexis D. Lea