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Boon-esque – 50 Shades of Cabaret and an interview with Ginger Leah Rye

Boon-esque – 50 Shades of Cabaret
Reinventing the romance novel with a dash of burlesque and barbershop

Boon-esque – 50 Shades of Cabaret, part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival is a burlesque and barbershop performance that aims to take the juiciest bits from Mills & Boon romance novels, while referencing 50 Shades of Grey, to create a quirky cabaret. Collaborating for the first time, Le Tableaux Burlesque and Bobby and the Pins have created an all-woman, seven-person show full of comedy. One of the performers is Ginger Leah Rye who we got a chance to chat to about the performance and what burlesque means to her.

I love the title of the show. Who came up with the idea?

While I was spending time with my Nan over the Christmas holidays, I discovered that she is a certified Mills and Boon addict. It was when I sat down in her favourite comfy chair that I found one such book hidden down the side, and I felt like I’d uncovered a little secret. I took one look at the book with its cheesy cover image of a passionate embrace, over-the-top title and cliché descriptions and thought – “there’s got to be some comic material for a show in here!”

Can I ask what your thoughts are on Mills and Boon and 50 Shades of Grey?

Through the process of creating Boon-esque, we have all done a fair amount “research” through reading numerous Mills and boon novels. They follow a basic formula of the lead female being uncontrollably attracted to a male with a certain combination of good looks, charm and charisma. While she resists him at first (for any number of reasons based on the storyline) his persistence eventually woos her into falling madly in love.

I think reading these novels and 50 Shades of Grey are basically like being attached to an IV drip of passion, grand displays of affection and intensity – things that sometimes go missing in real life romantic relationships. While some are possibly the most terrible pieces of literature we have ever subjected ourselves to, others are quite engaging, a good laugh and addictive!

Ok, let’s back back to burlesque. It’s great to finally see the Burlesque scene in Australia getting the recognition it deserves. Why do you think it’s so popular right now?

Burlesque is an attractive art to women because it’s all about glamour, femininity and body positivity. I think the thing that keeps people coming back for more is that you never know what to expect when you come to a burlesque show and that excites people – you’ll see it melded with acting, circus, singing, comedy, everything you could imagine. There are so many varied and talented performers around Australia, especially right here in Melbourne, and each performer has there own story to tell in their own style.

What do you think Australian artists in particular have to offer the burlesque scene?
The sheer distance from the rest of the burlesque hubs around the world has meant that we’ve had to learn how to entertain in our own way. There is a thriving live performance scene around Australia and a lot of burlesque performers often come from other performance backgrounds which gives our scene a varied flavor; Boon-esque after all has a barbershop quartet, an actress, a ballerina & an ex-iceskater coming together to create our own little bit of magic on stage.

Who do you most admire on the burlesque scene?
Imogen Kelly – our reigning Queen of Burlesque, after her win at Miss Exotic World 2012. Her shows are always impeccable, well researched and captivating. She is one lady who knows how to entertain.

Lillian Starr – she is one performer with a brilliant combination of comedic timing and twisted storytelling.

Nastie Canista (NYC)– aside from being one of the most open, warm and friendly performers I have met, I absolutely love her performance style and how she a lights up a room with a cheeky smile.

Joe Williams (NYC) – Joe is one of my burlesque mentors you might say! He teaches the Three Pillars Delsarte Technique of expression and understands the art and grace behind burlesque movement in a way that resonates with my own creation process. I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Joe earlier this year in Boston and New York.

What made you want to do burlesque, and how did you get started?

Well I started out as a professional figure ice skater, which was the beginning of my love for physical expression and choreography. I came back to Australia in 2007 after living in Asia for many years and wanted to get back into dancing for fun again. I came across a fan dancing course online and when I walked into the dance studio at House of Burlesque, the place looked like something out of the 1920’s. Having been addicted to old world movies, literature and music since I was a child, I was hooked straight away. It was just something that resonated with me completely and anyone who knows me well would agree.

What is your favourite kind of burlesque?

I love all kinds of burlesque and you will see this expressed through the little pieces of everything in my shows. I tend to create acts where I take the audience on a bit of a journey through Ginger’s mind; telling a story and engaging the audience emotionally – whether it’s through laughter, beauty or even the grotesque.

How do you come up with your routines?

I find inspiration from a variety of ways: sometimes I start with a theme or a story that I want to share, other times I hear a piece of music, a movie, a picture or even piece of clothing that inspires me to create a new act. Being part of a creative team alongside SheShe Velour in Le Tableaux Burlesque also means that not only do I have someone I trust to bounce my ideas off, but we also have the opportunity to regularly create routines together which is always a lot of fun. For Boon-esque we have added on another five people, which means it’s all about big brainstorming sessions and lots of laughter.

Do you feel that Australia is lacking in quality burlesque venues?

I personally think Australia has some great venues for burlesque shows, Melbourne itself is very lucky to have places such as The 86, Revolt Artspace, Red Bennies and Burlesque Bar. They have been able to create performance spaces where the look and feel of the whole venue suits the old world style of burlesque shows – the quality is definitely here.

What do you say to people who don’t see the distinction between burlesque and stripping?

I say “come along to a few shows and see for yourself!” Modern burlesque itself is a form of striptease so I can see how it can be confusing for newcomers to the art. For me, burlesque is a sensualised parody of beauty and tease where I get the opportunity unravel fantasies with the audience – as opposed to being an object of someone else’s sexual desire which tends to be more the case in strip clubs. Burlesque audiences tend to have a strongly female attendance as opposed to strip clubs with are predominantly male, so I think that the environment and audience expectations have also affected the performance style.

Thanks for your time!



Venue:  The 86, 185 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Time and dates: 9pm (75 mins) 5-6 & 12-13 October, 2012

Tickets: Full $25, Concession $22

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