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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:08 am

Marine musical madness delivers on cheekiness, comedy and talent

NAUGHTY PIRATES: (from left) Laura Gilkison, Eli Joseph, Gitana Badraun and Candy Burrel-Toms

WHEN I met Industrial Burlesque Collective founders Eli Joseph and Hans Landon-Lane to discuss their latest burlesque theatre review, they promised audiences would be “completely unprepared” for what they were about to witness.

I had an inkling of what to expect from ‘Nautical Naughties’: sexual degradation, a swag of dance genres, naval history satire, “falling over theatrically” and partial nakedness.

My expectations were met: the show lived up to its promises of bawdiness, gaudiness and more sparkly things you can shake a feather boa at, but these did not overshadow the talent and professionalism of the mainly amateur cast.

Nautical Naughties has a simple plot: captain of the Seawitch, dashing pirate rogue Black Jack Morgan (Eli Joseph), and his crew of saucy pirate wenches (Gitana Badraun, Laura Gilkison and Candy Burrell-Toms), are in hot pursuit of treasure.

Captain of the HMS Chastity, Admiral Copernicus Ignatius Nine Tails Horatio (Landon-Lane) and his Royal Privateers (Jared French, Freya van Alphen Fyfe and Andre Corey), who seek to rid the ocean of all scum and scallywags, are chasing the pirates.

COLOURFUL CHARACTERS: Admiral Horatio meets a hula girl (Emma Wollum)

On the way, they encounter the colourful gang of characters the audience was promised: a carnivorous deep sea mermaid, sex-mad hula girls, cute vintage pin-up swimmers, good navy wives gone bad, sirens who sing Pixies songs. It’s all there.

The entire show is set to a sprawling soundtrack worthy of a Baz Luhrman film, featuring everything from old sea shanties to 1920s musical tunes and from Marilyn Manson to SpongeBob SquarePants.   

Joseph as Black Jack Morgan, with his convincing Scottish brogue and even more credible drunken stumbling, gave a performance that ‘Pirates of the Caribbean ’ veterans Johnny Depp and Bill Nighy would be proud of.

Landon-Lane gave an equally magnificent rendition of the delightfully camp clean-freak Admiral Horatio.

 Both actors milked every second they were on stage, with enough panache to raise the Spanish Armada.

The pirate wenches performed with an enthusiastic mix of drunken aggression and bawdy sexuality: sneering at the audience, filing their nails with swords, swigging from hip flasks, and flashing their frilly undergarments at every opportunity. 

The sailors, named Rum, Sodomy and Lash, provided no shortage of comic moments, ending up in compromising positions, pulling exaggerated poses and generally acting daft, while drawing giggles from the audience.

Corey, as Lash, was a clear favourite, if the howls from the crowd as he dopily fiddled with chewing gum straight from his mouth while Landon-Lane lectured him, were anything to go by.

The sirens (Rose Duxfield, Ailsa Krefft and Victoria Weeds), resplendent in leather corsets and Ursula the Seawitch-style skirts, looked the part with their haunting vocals, creepy faces and swirling hands.

I would like to have seen more energy from the sirens; however I was most impressed with Krefft’s chilling performance of the song, “Where Is My Mind?”

There were also many outstanding individual acts: ranging from darkly seductive Courtney L’Amour (below right), as the man-eating mermaid, to adorably cheeky Willow Noir, as a 1950’s style swimmer.

Burlesque newcomer Allegra Valentine gave her first major performance as a fan dancing treasure map.

She didn’t appear as confident as the more seasoned performers – although the audience loved her.

The show-stealers would have to be pole dancer Corey and belly dancer Vashti. Corey, clad only in white boxer shorts with a cheeky sequined anchor on the rear, displayed almost otherworldly upper-body strength and flexibility.

His act resulted in both screeches of delight from the women in the crowd and approving nods from the young gentlemen seated at my table. 

Vashti (below left) captivated the audience, not just with her gyrating hips, but with her ability to balance swords on her waist, over her shoulder and even on top of her head while dancing.

She oozed sexuality, proving that alluring doesn’t always equal nakedness.

Joseph and Landon-Lane told me they had put the cast through their paces with the amount of dance styles they had to learn, and with all the theatrical falling over required.

The wenches and sailors moved particularly well, pulling off tango, swing and a waltz with elegance, whilst still looking suitably roguish and daft, respectively. 

The audience seemed particularly impressed with their Moulin Rouge-style tango routine to an accordion arrangement of Kurt Weil’s Pirate Jenny, complete with deliciously husky vocals from accordionist Emma Wollum.

In addition to the actors’ superior motor skills, their vocals were also impressive.

Joseph’s slurred hollering of ‘The Good Ship Venus’, Landon-Lane’s impassioned performance of ‘In the Navy’ went down well with the crowd and newbie Anna Miranda’s silky vocals on the Beatles’ song ‘Girl’.

My personal favourite was Landon-Lane’s performance of the Decemberists’ epic ballad ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’, which he pulled off with a mix of flamboyance and emotional rawness, and followed it up with a sword fight with Joseph, in time to the music.

ELEGANTLY ROGUISH: Tango-dancing pirates and sailors

To top this all off, Nautical Naughties was a visual spectacle. The elaborate props and extravagant costumes and makeup,  such as Landon-Lane’s full naval finery, the mermaid’s glistening golden scales and the hula girls’ strategically placed plastic watermelons, to name but a few – combined to make a technicolour treat for the eyes.

There were some parts of the show which did not feel as strong. Firstly, the kiss between gorgeous girls Anna Miranda and Sabina Vixen, who played a navy wife gone bad, felt a little contrived.

Having two beautiful women lock lips feels old hat, and felt slightly out of place in such a creative spectacle. However, the audience certainly seemed to appreciate it.

Some of the projection during the musical pieces could have been stronger, such as the pirate wenches’ vocals on the opening number.

The well-choreographed high-seas battle between the pirates and sailors could also have gone on for longer.  

Nit-picking aside, it was a great romp. The audience laughed themselves silly and got an eyeful of adorable half-dressed boys and girls in corsets, and I for one, was genuinely impressed by a visually stunning, expertly choreographed and high energy piece of theatre.

Joseph and Landon-Lane told me the Industrial Burlesque Collective is “just getting started”. I look forward to seeing what these self-confessed “evil geniuses” will come up with next.

CREEPY SIRENS: (from left) Victoria Weeds, Rose Duxfield and Ailsa Krefft

 PHOTOS: Rex Bustria of Rex Bustria Photography 

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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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