Art

Perth International Burlesque Festival Opening Night

The Perth International Burlesque Festival Opening Night & The Dark Room

June 17, 2016
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By Kitty Turpin

Limbo-ing through a tiny doorway, crawling out of the real world, and into a land of fantasy and sensuality – this was my expectation at the beginning of my Perth International Burlesque Festival experience.

However last night I didn’t crawl into a fantasy land, but rather a warehouse gallery at the Chrissie Parrott Arts Gallery Space, that showed selected works from six Perth photographers predominant in the burlesque and cabaret scene.

My favourite set of photos from the night was from John Leonard. He had a beautiful array of prints from live burlesque and cabaret performances. Leonard is an experienced photographer who can capture the very essence of a performer and their act, on stage, with vibrant rich colours. Together, these prints showcase Perth’s diverse burlesque community.

I should also mention winner of Miss Burlesque WA 2015, talented seamstress and comedy queen of the MC mic, Ruby Slippers, who makes her debut as a photographer in this exhibition. Her prints present something real and raw in the burlesque and music scene. These photos feel like they could have been taken in the 30s, 40s or 50s – backstage and intimate with performers of vintage art-forms. I’m interested to see where Ruby takes this new-found talent in the future.

The exhibition grew progressively busier as it got closer to the entertainment for the evening: The Dark Room–aptly named to accompany a photographic exhibition–a mix of multimedia performance art, and slideshows of the exhibiting photographers works.


The Chrissie Parrott Arts Gallery Space is a multi arts space. It’s able to be a multi arts space because it is basically a blank canvas for event holders – white walls, no stage, no extravagant lighting or sound setup and ample space for foldout chairs. This was fine for the slideshows and initial exhibition, but it was hard to visualise an evening of conceptual performance in such a space. The six performers made do with what they had and what they had was enough to entice and excite, with superb sound and adequate lighting.

This was a mixed bag of talent: a seductive snake (real and figurative) charmer Lucy Watusi, an emotional dark contemporary dance piece by Essie Foxglove, a fire spinning fan performance to warm the crowd from Ginger Rabbit, a hilarious burlesque take on a wedding night’s first blood (or getting your period at the worst possible time) from Ruby Slippers and a homage to Australia with Coco Poppin, dancing in an unbelievable costume made from native plants. The night ended with a high-energy performance by Agatha Frisky.

I was captivated for the hour and a half, at least by the artists and not the slight technical difficulties that did ensue with the equipment used due to the restrictions of the venue. This was a perfect variety of performers for the opening night of the Perth International Burlesque Festival.

The burlesque photography exhibition is open for public viewing over the weekend.
Click here for details on opening times.

The Perth International Burlesque Festival is on until June 26.
Go to their website for more information on events and workshops.

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