Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Bloodbath

An ambitious undertaking packed with gimmicks produces a grinding workhorse of a performance.
Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Bloodbath

Image supplied by Bloodbath.  

Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant’s latest production, tabled for the Cabaret Festival, is Bloodbath, a performance promising burlesque, aerial acrobatics, jazz, comedy, suicide circus and optical illusions in its three-hour show.

Dracula’s, established over thirty years ago, was founded by Tikki and John Newman and now inhabits both Melbourne and the Gold Coast. The Melbourne show has a cast of three men and three women. Two of the men, one of whom is also the musical director, greet guests outside the venue with a warm-up routine. Their energy and humour is infectious and promises an entertaining evening. These two men then form the two-man band for the remainder of the night, also dancing, singing, even puppeteering. The third man acts as compere, dancer, singer and comedian.

The three women are the visual and auditory entertainment dressed in all manner of skimpy outfits. With a show touted as acrobatic and burlesque, some apparatus are brought into play, such as a suspended hoop, steel frame, and mirrors. There are certainly a lot of gratuitous leg splits, but in this context it has more the feel of clothed porn than cheeky burlesque. There are robot dancers, puppets, a cadaver horse and an onstage pool, all of which occasionally suggest some connection to a ghoulish theme but often just exist in no-man’s land between cabaret, stand-up and burlesque. Unfortunately, the show lacks the naive charm of burlesque and the finesse and innovation of any one of these genres done well.

These performers work extremely hard night after night which has, I think, created a conveyor belt feel to the performance. Wooden one-liners, choreographed jokes and slapstick are all performed word and pitch perfect but with glazed eyes, stiff smiles and without soul, as if someone were holding a stick over them. The show comes with a three-course meal which packs no surprises; it’s about the standard of a mediocre pub meal. The talented staff, including the wait staff are all clearly of theatrical leanings and are both professional and hard-working.

Bloodbath is an ambitious undertaking packed with all kinds of gimmicks and clearly designed to please a particular adult crowd. I wonder if they’d concentrated on just a few less acts, there wouldn’t be this almost maniacal scrambling to cover all bases, creating a relentless, grinding workhorse of a performance, all while remembering to smile. I felt relieved for the performers when it was over.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

Bloodbath

Cast: David Small, Stewart Reeve, Frank Kerr, Lauren Skopalova, Jessica Robbins, Adelaide Clark

Dracula’s, Victoria St, Carlton
Melbourne Cabaret Festival
www.melbournecabaret.com
20 June – 5 July

Jennifer Porter

Friday 20 June, 2014

About the author

Jennifer Porter is a Melbourne-based writer and reviewer. She is currently working on her first manuscript, a work of fiction set in the inner suburbs of Melbourne.