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Seafaring spectacle set to raise recession spirits

Sep 27th, 2012 | By | Category: Arts/Entertainment, Featured Article

CHEEKY CHARACTERS: Sailor Jared French and pirate/navy wife Candy Burrell-Toms

FOR RECESSION-WEARY Wellingtonians, a hearty dose of sultry dancing pirates, pretty-boy sailors, strange sea shanties and a wee bit of hula could be just the ticket.

These are only a few of the cheeky ingredients in Nautical Naughties, a theatre review by the Wellington Industrial Burlesque Collective, to hit the stage in early October.

Show producers, collective founders and self-confessed “evil geniuses” Eli Joseph and Hans Landon-Lane say the current economic downturn is as good a time to put on a burlesque production.

“The huge burlesque houses were for migrants and the working class,” says executive producer Eli, who also plays the “dashing rogue” Captain Black Jack Morgan.

“We’re doing pretty much the same. We have lots of volunteer support, and our cast are all amateur performers. That way, we can price our shows a lot more affordably.”

The cast and crew say they are also inspired by burlesque and cabaret shows which were popular during the Great Depression.

“People needed something light in the midst of huge poverty and depression,” says cast member Gitana Badraun, 23, who plays a “drunken, sultry and violent” pirate wench.

“They needed a bit of a breather.”

Nautical Naughties is the collective’s second large scale show. Its maiden production, Zomburlesque, played to sell-out crowds in Wellington and went on to feature in Dunedin’s Fringe Festival last year.

EVIL GENIUSES: Hans Landon-Lane and Eli Joseph

This show has a colourful gang of characters, including pirates, sailors, mermaids, sinister hula girls, 1950’s-style navy wives and a bar wench.

“We have every marine trope you can think of: navy nancy-boys, tropical girls, sirens and things with tentacles,” says music director Hans, 26.

“We’ve got everything – plus sword dances.”

While Zomburlesque was primarily influenced by the popular neo-burlesque movement, Nautical Naughties harks back to the old style of 1800’s burlesque theatre, with its pantomime aesthetic and physical comedy.

“The old shows used to parody the elite by using slapstick comedy and sexual degradation,” says Gitana.

Eli says in this case, Nautical Naughties has “references and motifs for Africa”, with comedic takes on literary material by Brecht, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Bronte sisters, and much lampooning of seafaring history.

PIRATE WENCHES: Laura Gilkison and Gitana Badraun

“There’s lots of historical stuff, like the heyday of piracy and the imperial navy. It’s all great fodder for jokes”, says Hans, who plays Admiral Copernicus Horatio, Captain of the HMS Chastity.

Eli and Hans say they are thrilled with their highly skilled amateur cast, who they recruited while “networking like [their] lives depended on it”.

Gitana says she and her fellow cast members have had to try their hands at a range of dance styles, such as traditional burlesque, fetish-inspired numbers, belly dancing, tango, rock n’ roll and even a mock synchronised swimming routine.

The show also features male pole dancer Andre Corey.

“Basically, we’ve got everything that’s exotic and erotic,” says Gitana, who adds the show has required her to master the art of “falling over theatrically”.

Nautical Naughties promises to be a visual spectacle, with props, including swords, canons, treasure chests and ship fronts provided by The Wellington Makerspace.

DASHING ROGUE: Eli plays Black Jack Morgan, Captain of The Seawitch

Its soundtrack features sea shanty-style rearrangements of songs by Nick Cave, the Beatles and Marilyn Manson, and will be provided by “house band” the Wellington City Shake-‘Em-On-Downers.

The cast and crew are excited for opening night next week – with the producers promising that audiences will be “completely unprepared for what they are about to witness”.

Eli says prizes will be given to audience members who show up in costume.

“My life really just consists of hosting elaborate costume parties,” he says.

Nautical Naughties will run from October 3 to 6 at The Front Room in Hania St. Tickets are available from Dash Tickets at $20 for concession and $30 for general admission.

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is a Whitireia journalism student, most passionate about the arts and social justice issues. Sometimes, she even combines the two.
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