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Victoria Spence, Quick & Dirty Victoria Spence, Quick & Dirty
photo George Voulgaropoulos
OUR HOST CANDY (VICTORIA SPENCE) DESCENDS THE STEEP AISLE, GREETED BY GREAT APPLAUSE. SHE’S “EMERGING FROM 12 LONG YEARS” THAT HAS INVOLVED SOME “DEEP UNDERCOVER WORK CALLED MOTHERHOOD.” BUT NOW SHE’S BACK. IT’S BEEN NINE YEARS SINCE TABOO PARLOUR, ITSELF A SUCCESSOR TO THE LEGENDARY CLUB BENT, APPEARED DURING MARDI GRAS AT PERFORMANCE SPACE, AND FINALLY QUICK AND DIRTY HAS ARRIVED TO FILL THE VOID.

With public acknowledgment of the collective responsibility of Australians for the past now firmly embedded in the national zeitgeist, Spence fittingly acknowledges the traditional Indigenous owners of the land on which tonight’s performance takes place. As she does so, she points also to the struggles for recognition of queer identities, thus framing Quick and Dirty as a gathering of disparate tribes who “continue to weave stories of love, respect, and resilience.” Her opening address received an enthusiastic cheer from the capacity crowd, and established the event as part remembrance, part celebration and part community affirmation all wrapped up within two sprawling nights of performance from a truly diverse range of queer-identified artists.

Each night’s program began with the amiably anarchic foyer carnival of Biffo’s Blow Up Bonanza, featuring an inflatable peepshow and various sideshow acts competing with loud audience chatter. More contemplative in tone were the concurrent durational performances. On Friday, Fiona McGregor’s Borne saw the artist laid out in a coffin, her naked body covered by layers of small gifts that the audience was invited to take. The quiet reverence of the installation was a welcome contrast to the chaos outside, but the effect was somewhat ruined by front of house staff persistently reminding audience members who chose to linger that this was a “durational piece”, and that once we’d taken our gift (a neatly wrapped packet of seeds), we should take our (quiet) conversations back outside. Saturday saw the exquisite intimacy of Sarah-Jane Norman’s Songs of Rapture and Torture (#1: Surabaya Johnny). After a long wait to be singly admitted, I entered to find Norman sitting naked, blindfolded and elaborately bound to a chair, singing huskily in German into a microphone dangling from the ceiling. Clearly, I’d arrived in the middle of some ordeal. After about five mesmerising and strangely anxious minutes, the door opened and I was politely ushered out. Norman continued to sing, lost in a private world of loss, pain and resignation. Despite the brief encounter, the powerful image lingered.

Gwenda & Guido, Quick & Dirty Gwenda & Guido, Quick & Dirty
photo George Voulgaropoulos
Friday’s in-theatre acts included Trash Vaudeville’s restaging of his 1999 one-off Fool’s Gold using his original video animations. As the images progress he tries to remember what the piece was about, throwing himself from one pose to another, never seeming to recall what happens next. It’s an amusing, if rambling, exercise in media and memory, pointing clearly to the failures of both, but still managing to maintain its sense of humour even as the performance falls apart. This followed the amazing, crimson Chewbacca-esque creature and giant lolly-strewn stage of Buzz’s A Cavity Calamity, which unfortunately failed to provide much interest beyond its extravagant costuming. In The Invisible Woman from Outer Space, Glitta Supernova and Sex Intents presented a cosmic, ultraviolet strip tease, with the performer’s body disappearing as her fluorescent clothes flew away, seemingly of their own accord, culminating in a tiny rocket ship blasting off from her arse. Topping this, the highlight of the night was Gwenda and Guido’s White Heading, an outrageously bizarre Elvis-themed, whip cracking, cream-spraying, cake-eating, candle-inserting romp—sexy, funny and just plain wrong.

Saturday’s program was equally eclectic but far stronger overall. Wife’s Untitled began with a literally unravelling striptease, as a cunningly designed garment fell away forming a single thread. The piece ended with the viscerally discomforting removal of another thread, this time one stitched into the performer’s chest and examined in extreme close-up on video. Matt Hornby, Matt Stegh and Tristan Coumbe’s The Axis of Evil spectacularly queered the War on Iraq with production values to die for—breathtaking costume changes complete with decorated erect rocket penises, thrilling deathly dance routines, and satanic cameos. But the night belonged to The King Pins, whose Mystic Rehab was surely the ultimate in lip-syncing drag performance—performed with dazzling skill and energy, imaginative musical montage and stunningly excessive costumes that combined to produce a jaw-droppingly hilarious spectacle to send us all home wanting much much more. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another nine years for Quick and Dirty 2!


Performance Space, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2008: Quick and Dirty, coordinator Victoria Spence, lighting designer Clytie Smith, producer Fiona Winning, CarriageWorks; Sydney, Feb 22-23

RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 39

© David Williams; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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