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February 27, 2012 / Siobhan Argent

Apocastrip Wow! – review

Reviewed Wednesday February 22 2012, at the Esplanade Hotel, St. Kilda

A shortened version of this review published February 2012 by Beat magazine

Read my interview with Julie Atlas Muz here.

Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz are doing some brave new things when it comes to sexuality and the disabled, even if their artistic exploration completely misfires at some points. In burlesque-cum-comedy show Apocastrip Wow!, the pair are not only comfortable being completely naked together onstage because they are a long-term couple, but also because they are seasoned performers.

Muz is burlesque royalty, having been on the New York burlesque scene longer than most people have been performing in the genre. In this show she dazzles with some suitably teasing stripteases. They show some serious artistry and thought, suggesting she has an excellent understanding of what makes a good tease. For starters, she is unafraid of jiggle and bounce. And she toes the line when it comes to feminine passivity, particularly in her routine involving her waddling on to the stage bound tightly with thick rope. But as she ‘escapes’ the rope to the peachy strains of Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me, you’re left in no doubt about who really has the control. Muz is a skilled and crafty performer, happy to toy with boundaries.

It’s a prop-friendly show for Muz, with items including thick rope, bound around Muz’s entire body, glow sticks (used in a very inventive way), fluorescent nipple paint, and the kind of afro that would make an African-American man from the seventies very proud. It all demonstrates Muz’s inventiveness with a formula overworked by Dita-Von-Teese wannabes. Fraser, too, impresses with his cheeky naked scenes and his interesting mini-history on disabled performers. Using Fraser’s phocomelia (severely shortened limbs), the pair mix a nouveau style of burlesque with a cheerful, campy comedy. Fraser also has a wide variety of props, including a saw that he uses to demonstrate his manliness and the dexterity in his shortened arms.

It’s great if you don’t find phocomelia or full-on nudity confronting. It’s just two people on stage having fun, ignoring social proclivities and being naked almost as much as they can get away with. Nothing, however, will prepare you for the one major visual assault which tramples over all other attempts to connect sexual and apocalyptic themes. The audience views a video, in which Muz’s vagina (yes, you read that correctly) mimes the words to a Bob Marley song. That’s not really the part that gets you, nor are the interspliced images of war and scandal. It’s the final shot that makes the audience squirm, evidently engineered to shock with its abruptness.

What’s irritating is that none of this video would have been particularly awful, and may even have maintained some relevancy to the show’s themes, if it had not been totally blown out of the water by the finale of a pointless shot of genitalia doing something that will make a large portion of the female population squirm at the memory. For me, it wasn’t so much the footage itself that irked; shocking things can be great when they make a point. But, while staring straight down the barrel of a vagina, I couldn’t help but feel that something shocking had been shoved in front of the audience for no other reason other than it was vaguely relevant to the immediate ‘vagina’ theme. The video wasn’t even a central tenet of the show, but I found it so badly misjudged that I couldn’t help but view the whole show as more tasteless as a result. Perhaps if you strip that misfire away from the rest of the show, you’d possibly have a more interesting burlesque/comedy review that needs to stick more closely to the themes it attempts to cover.

So, advice on Muz and Fraser’s Apocastrip Wow! show: don’t take your mother. But do take an open mind, because Fraser and Muz bounce off each other in a cheesy and disarming way, and it’s great to see someone be so fearless about their body. If you don’t care about staring down the barrel of a vagina, perhaps go and see the kind of inventive performances one of the queens of burlesque is showcasing in this pre-apocalyptic world.


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