National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presents
23 November to 3 December 2011
Catch a rising star.
Armed with courage, strength, grace and split-second precision, NICA's graduating artists make their farewell appearance in a stellar performance season. Their signature acts have been developed over three years of intensive circus training and study as part of Australia’s only Bachelor of Circus Arts.
Circus Showcase 2011 is extraordinary circus suitable for all ages.
Directed by Megan Jones.
Evenings: 23, 24, 25, 26, 30 November and 1, 2, 3 December @ 7.30pm
Saturday Matinee: 26 November @ 1.30pm
School Matinee: Fri 2 December @ 1.00pm
Half Price Preview: 22 November @ 7.30pm
Tickets: Adults $28 / Concession $22 / Child under 16 $18 / Family $72
Visit the ticketing site for group and school discounts.
Enquiries: 03 9214 6975
Red Bennies strums the guitar with Ben Wright Smith for the upcoming album launch of his band.
How long have you been singing for?
I’ve always been singing. I don’t know why but for as long as I can remember I’ve always had a tune in my head. It’s a habit that I haven’t been able to kick.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Actually, when I was really young all I ever wanted to be was a cartoonist. Me and my friend, Raph used to draw for hours and hours. Now he’s an artist and I can still draw cartoons but it’s mainly music for me. I still think its there in me though. Sometimes when I write songs they play out as images or ideas which would have been the same as if I had drawn, say a character or a scene. Cartoons always come out wonky and strange and always offer such a distorted view of the world, which is something I’m totally into.
How did the band form?
We met around the traps in Melbourne just all gigging around. Eventually we all just fell in love with each other’s playing and now the band is what it is today. There was never really a moment of ‘hey, lets start a band’. We were all just floating around playing folk music, and what started off as a small project has become our band today.
How would you describe your music?
I guess it is simple music. We take elements of every sound that we love and it becomes music somehow. We can jam sometimes and it feels like an electrical storm. It’s chaotic and random and you’ll never know what the person next to you will do, although we like it this way. We never play songs exactly the same, so it’s always new and spontaneous.
Can you please give us a brief description of your album?
A lot of the songs on the album are travelling stories and ideas which all came together through moving around a lot and rambling onto a page for a lack of anything better to do. We recorded it live too, trying to capture the live element of our performance and really trying to take it from simple folk ballads to heavy fast paced rock’n’roll numbers. It’s often abrupt and really takes a new turn at every corner.
Who are you great musical inspirations?
There are just so many that it’s really hard to name. I think I’ve gotten to a point now where I don’t even know. I don’t really have much music apart from a couple of records in my apartment, which range from Robert Johnson to the Clash; Diana Ross to the Laughing Clowns and Led Zeppelin. I really love it all and don’t try to analyse it too much anymore. I think you can hear different types of music at any time and if it’s music with soul, then I’ll love it from the get go.
What are you your views on the current Australian music industry?
Well, I don’t know about ‘the industry’ but the climate in Melbourne is great. Every night of the week there are great bands playing in some of the coolest venues and everyone seems to know what’s going on. Live music is such a huge part of Melbourne culture and has been for such a long time. I guess for me there is so much originality and creativity floating around but everyone’s still poor. I’d say that the fact that there are so many cool bands who aren’t being heard shows that maybe something’s lacking in the industry but that being said, poverty breeds great tunes so what can you say?
Do you have a favourite musical artist you have worked with to date?
I played a really nice tucked away gig at Purepop records with Conway Savage from The Bad Seeds recently. He was really great and obviously has written some of the coolest piano parts of recent years. I also got some help from Mark Seymour and Charles Jenkins writing music recently. We met up and I played them some songs and they gave me some really cool ideas about writing more tunes.
Who would you like the chance to meet?
David Attenborough. Or Carl Sagan.
Without giving too much away, what can the Red Bennies audience expect from the night?
It’s going to be a whole lot of fun I think. We’ve got some of our favorite band coming to play; Howlin’ Steam Train, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and The Paper St Soap Company, and we’re starting the night with the crazy ‘Texas Jacks Caberet Bonanaza’. I think there will be lots of boogying and cool country tunes, and its going to keep on going until the early morning. I think it will be somewhere between a circus and a hootenanny in an old barn.
Why MUST people attend your album launch?
I think that something like this is brand new. For everyone living south side of the river this sort of thing has never been done. Red Bennies is like an oasis of art and talent in the baron desert of electro DJ’s and fist-pumping, which often encompasses Chapel street on a Friday night. I’m really excited to play there.
What do you hope to get out of the evening?
We hope to put on a great show alongside some great bands and have lots of people excited to hear our new album. We also hope that people will be able to brush up on some dance-steps that might not have been fashionable since the 1950’s.
Thank you Ben Wright Smith. We look forward to seeing you and your band on Friday night!!
Red Bennies puts on the cowboy boots and straps on the saddle with Texas Jack of Texas Jack's Cabaret Bonanza!
When did you first start performing?
From when I was a kid, I started off as the class clown, did school plays and made Super 8mm movies with mates on weekends before there was such a thing as video camcorders and digital editing systems. We ended up making over 100 short films! Small town boredom you know..
How did you start out?
I started more from a film perspective, got a degree in Film & TV and made independent features with friends. I always acted in the films as that was really my first love. I also did some live theatre and comedy ‘on the side’ as it were, while waiting for my BIG Hollywood break.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
How would your lovely girlfriend, Madame Natalia, describe you in one sentence?
In her own words, “He’s a big man…and tall too” Guess she means fame wise.
Can you give us a brief account what you have been involved in to date?
Jack of all trades and Master of them All! I have… (Paulie takes big breath) written scripts for film and theatre, produced, directed and sold features, helmed and performed theatre, cabaret and burlesque shows, acted professionally in film & TV, worked on hundreds of radio voiceovers, blown things up professionally as a licensed Pyrotechnician and worked every shit job there is in between gigs.
Writer, producer, MC and perfomer.. Do you have a favourite?
I love writing but it’s a tough mistress, MC’ing is the chance for me to mess with audiences (so it’s up there). Producing is just ‘Hell on Earth’ so it’s really gotta be performing…pushing myself to go there and giving audiences insanity in a frame, coz that’s what they really want.. There isn’t a damn thing I wouldn’t do on stage!
Can you tell us a bit more about Jack Lad and his multiple personalities?
Jack Lad is my Cabaret persona, an entity to house the multitude of characters, nuts and demons that live in my head. He is a creative force for any occasion, light, dark, fun, poignant and crass. He is at times: Priest, Doctor, Killer, Wrestler, Cowboy, Crooner, Pedophile, Soul Collector, Lothario and a host of other lads (or lasses) depending on what’s needed.
What is your most memorable performance? Where and why?
Easy. I ran a season of shows with Madame Natalia and local burlesque/cabaret talent based on the time honored ‘Grand Guignol’ theatre movement of Paris and England circa 1900’s. We’ve brought it back to the 21st Century as ‘Atrocity – Cabaret Du Grand Guignol’
I play a terrifying and ageless seer called Anton De Lorde. The shows saw audiences fainting and crying in droves. My favorite piece was a re-enactment of the Black Dahlia murder, when I carve Madame Natalia up on stage.
What does 2012 hold in store for you?
The next season of Atrocity (it’s an ongoing theatrical icon). More shows with Jack Lad. Production of a feature film I’ve written called ‘Impulse’ and most importantly, setting up our own Cabaret Venue called ‘Bohemia’ (Natalia and I). A home at last! It will be a mecca for artists in this country, a true embodiment of the bohemian ideal.
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years time?
More of what I do now, bigger and better and doing stuff on stage and screen that no-one has ever seen before.
What do you love about performing at Red Bennies?
It’s an oasis in a dead sea of cultural oblivion. A premier venue that holds sound antidote to the current glut of drinking inspired entertainment and sports oriented expression.
It’s well run and they are a vibrant production machine, churning out art, fostering talent and kicking Chapel Street in its vacuous sac!
Who is Texas Jack?
He’s a good ol’ boy who decided to mosey on down south of the border (real south if yer ask me) and see how folks do their thang down yonder. He’s here to bring a little piece ‘o Texas with him, spread some o’ that cowboy spirit that lives in every one o’ us, roun these parts’.
Without giving too much away, what can the audience expect from Texas Jack’s Cabaret Bonanza?
High energy, loads of fun and rightly ridiculous stage antics. We got some fine fillies playin’ their ample wares. Four huge Tex Mex bands, Great hollerin’ (as in singin’) and some impromptu bootscootin’ to…well to boot.
Why MUST everyone come to the show?
Shoot…Because it’s time to release your inner cowboy or cowgal, raise Hell and get them britches down at the end of the night. Time to kick up yer heels, liquor up mighty and Do Se motherlovin’ DO! (sorry bout the cussin’)
Any final comments?
There’s been a lotta guff about this ‘Brokeback Mountain’ bizness. All I can say is it gits purty lonely out thar ridin’ the range…sometimes with jus the company of your fella hombre, bouncin’ up and down on his steer in front of yer, in them tight levis…All I can say is, what happens out on the prairie…stays on the prairie…
Red Bennies' learns a little more about the Soulful Songstress Kathy HInch and her Band
When did you start singing?
I have always sung in some shape or form for as long as I can remember!
Officially, I think my mum finally put me into lessons at about age 12. This helped focus some of my energy into my love for music.
Did you always want to be a singer when you were growing up? If not, what did you want to be?
I always really wanted to be a dancer. Many hot rollers and sequins later, I decided I was much better at music. I was lucky enough to land a spot at the VCA Victorian College of the Arts), undertaking a bachelor of Music degree, fresh out of High School. I'm not sure what I would have done if that hadn't happened. There was nothing else I considered to be an option other than singing.
Who are your major musical influences?
I have many stylistic influences that vary from the likes of soul/jazz/pop and just about everything in between.
In terms of songwriting though, it's fair to say that my peers mostly influence me. There's something really special about having a bunch of mates that all write songs. Quite often I'm so impressed by what I've heard, it sparks the inspiration to go and write something myself, which I think is the best compliment you can give a songwriter.
How would you describe your music?
I'd like to think of the music as being rich in lyrical storytelling; having musical substance and sophistication whilst remaining accessible and catchy when you're in the mood for doing your thing on the dance floor..
Is there a genre it falls into?
I would say the genre falls into neo-soul/ pop, which sometimes has a bit of a jazz vibe.
How did the band form?
In May of 2010 I was asked to put on a support show at The Esplanade Hotel for "The Little Stevie's". At that point I didn't even have a band, but didn't want to let the Stevie's down. I am a massive fan and friend and didn't want to pass up the opportunity, so I called upon some fellow students I was studying with at the VCA to put together and workshop a bunch of my original songs. Once we had performed I was hooked and we didn't look back!
What is your most memorable performance?
I think this first show playing my own original songs was definitely a massively memorable gig. There's really no other feeling like wearing your heart on your sleeve and diving in head first while sharing new songs for the first time.
What was it like recording with Jason Heerah of Electric Empire? How did this come about?
I had a specific idea that I really wanted the drum tracks on the debut EP to be really special. So I figured whom better to record them for me than a drummer - one that happens to be not only super talented, but also a great dude. So I contacted Jason and hooked up a session in his studio space, and was lucky enough to make the most of his expertise and gear while our drummer, Sarah Galdes, put down the drum takes.
Where would you like to see the future of the Melbourne music industry?
Alive. I'd love to see more venues having the facilities to have original music played.
I'd also love to see more Australian acts on the mainstream airwaves so that the people who may not venture out much into the ‘hidey hole’ venues of Melbourne to see live music, have a chance to see what the scene actually has to offer. Then in turn, be really able to enjoy and support it.
Who are your favourite artists of the moment?
Jill Scott. John Legend. John Mayer. Maybe it's a j thing?
What lies ahead for you and the band in 2012?
An exciting EP Launch, continuing to develop our sound, and really trying to make ourselves a force to be reckoned with in Melbourne. I'll leave the world domination stuff until maybe 2013…
Where would you ultimately like to see yourself in 5 years time?
I would ultimately love to have music be my ticket to showing me the world. I feel like I have a lot of travelling in me to do and if music could take me there it would be even better.
Without giving too much away, what can the Red Bennies audience expect from your performance on the night?
Solid grooves, good vibes, a slick band and a special guest appearance!
Why MUST people come and see you perform at Nocturnal Soul Sessions?
11.11.11- Do you really want to risk not doing something awesome on this date? At least if the world ends you will have amazing cocktails and great tunes. :)
What do you have to say about the auspicious nature of the date, 11.11.11? Do you think the world is going to come to an end?
I can't say. All I know is that I'm infamous for getting obsessed with conspiracy theories. I freak when I see an all seeing eye. If you are into these you'll know what that means! So it's probably best to keep any of it away from me. Maybe we should buy lots of tinned spaghetti like we did when the y2k bug was coming? Or was that just me? I'm not quite sure how spaghetti would save us from the apocalypse but it seemed more than adequate back then.
Any final comments Kathy?
Cannot wait to hit the Red Bennies Stage!
FEATURING ELECTRIC EMPIRE & SPECIAL GUESTS
Red Bennies discusses the dynamic life of Darius Mendoza - writer, poet, lyricist.
How old were you when you started touring the bars of Melbourne with your father, Noel?
In one sentence, how would your Father describe you?
The black sheep
What did you want to do as a child when you grew up?
Fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewie and Han
What it was like growing up in such a musical family?
Tedious and fabulous.
You were dyslexic in your youth. How did you move from here to writing a novel?
I couldn’t really read or write up until my early twenties. It wasn’t until after landing a main role on a TV show that I really had to deal with it.
So after that I took it on board to teach myself how to read. I started off with Vertigo comic books, cause the writing was minimal and there were pictures to aid the words and the stories were great and kept me interested. Instead of starting off with “the cat on the mat,” I read about killers and renegades.
After that I moved onto poems, because they too were small self contained stories that I could take my time and work though, I really got into Charles Bukowski because he was a prose writer and you didn’t have to be a scholar to understand what the man was saying. He put things simply and had an uncompromising voice and style, Bukowski is a dead mentor of mine along with John Fante, Salinger and Hemingway.
When did you realize this is what you wanted to do?
I suppose I discovered that in the process of it all. In Singapore after my gigs I’d find it very hard to sleep after bashing out 4 hours of swing-jazz and soul. Being completely buzzed I need something to settle me, so writing was the thing I did to bring me back again. After a while I started looking forward to the writing more than the singing. I love the simplicity of it too, I don’t need a band or a studio to write my words. All I need is some paper, a pen, a pack of softs, scotch and me. I guess you live and die by that. Cause if you write something that sucks you only have yourself to blame.
You are a seasoned “crooner”, a lyricist, a writer, a poet.. What did you start out doing? What do you enjoy doing the most?
It’s a tough question, one that can’t really be answered. It’s like food, sometimes you want 4 courses at some fancy pants joint, which take time and needs to be considered, somewhat like a novel. Then sometimes all you want is that cheeseburger at 3am in the morning kind of like writing a dirty poem after lots of drinking and fooling around.
In short I enjoy it all, singing and all types of writing, it’s more about what feels right at the time.
Can you give us a quick account of what ‘The Running Mouse’ is about?
The book is centered around a protagonist who has one small encounter that begins a much bigger journey of finding out who he is, what he wants and what he has been missing out on. From the very first page of the book we realize that the protagonist, Leon Jackson, has awoken to this truth. After Leon Jackson has his epiphany, it gives him an edge, an overwhelming sense of honesty and freedom in life that inspires many entertaining and unusual events. With this new mind-set Leon learns how to react, to use his gut feeling, his instinct and does it with absolutely no apologies, though living life in its extremity can be a blessing and burden. Leon is either on top of the world or stuck underneath it, one moment he’s living in his car, sick and drunk with no money, the next he’s wondering around a mansion entertaining the rich with his nonchalance.
What does this book mean to you?
It’s something that I finished, that I did off my own back, something that I created. So I’m proud of it and the way it all happened, thinking I’d never be able to read and then going on to write 265 pages of my own words.
Can you give us some further insight into “Leon Jackson” – your alter-ego?
It’s all a very effortless thing for Leon Jackson, as he pretty much does whatever he feels like doing in the moment, without too much contemplation of it’s effects on himself or on others. For Leon it’s not about learning, enlightenment or becoming a better person, it’s about the experience. He is often doing what is considered to be wrong and scamming his way in and out of trouble, but in saying that more times than not, you can’t help but feel empathy towards him and his cause. His great fear of becoming just another number is what fuels his many attempts at being more than just an average man. He wants more out of life and love but doesn’t really come up with any kind of plan on how to achieve this. So we see him fumble about, often conversing with his conscience, or drifting away into his vivid imagination or embellishing an alternate far-fetched out come. I like to think of Leon Jackson as the ultimate pessimistic-optimist.
What are your ultimate desires for the future of your book?
The Pulitzer Prize.
What do you view as the future of Electric Empire? What is your involvement going to be?
I don’t really know.. I know they deserve to be acknowledged in a global way because of their sound, their voice and obviously their/my lyrics. But until the world turns down David Guetta and Kylie Minogue and starts to really soul search for “the real” then I don’t know.
Christ, commercial music used to be, The Beatles, Stevie wonder, Billy Joel, Queen
Popular music has turned to shit! I’m not always looking for the obscure, I like a hotdog as much as the next guy but I refuse to eat a turd and call it a meal.
I write lyrics for some of their songs, I guess sometimes I’m a bouncing board for ideas but mostly I just get drunk and they laugh at me. I’ve just finished writing some lyrics for their new album. It’s a track Jason sings it’s fucking awesome and I’m working on another for my brother.
Why must people attend the Running Mouse Fundraiser at Red Bennies?
Because it’s unheard of, having all these different talents in one room, Jazz guys, rockers, soul singers… and me!
In all seriousness though, I like the cross pollination of art, whether it be from excerpts from the novel or hearing my brothers 70’s soul band (Electric Empire) or my sister singing beautiful Jazz or the old man banging out a George Shearing number. It’s my family, my crew and great friends like Juno Roxas and Phil Ceberano that are gonna kick you in the pants and say, this is life!
It’s exciting, it’s where people should gather on a Wednesday night if they’re looking for answers.
What are your plans for 2012?
Are you planning on writing more novels?
Red Bennies is joining the protest and getting ready to grumble with the Monster that is Betty Grumble!
How long has Betty Grumble being in existence?
Betty Grumble was created in February 2011, although her ethos and aesthetic has been gestating for some years… It wasn’t until I entered ‘Lucy Suze’s Lucky Dip’ a variety night/talent quest that Betty Grumble showed herself. I ended up winning the finals, and, with incredible support from the performance community have been growing the Grumble ever since.
How did she come into existence? Why?
Betty Grumble is a protest. She is a collision of comedy and horror, a grotesque caricature that was born out of a need to challenge how female bodies are expected to look/behave/be. My desire as an artist is to infuse feminist questioning in a form that is accessible and effective, traversing various spaces and reaching a variety of spectators.
In your own words, who is Betty Grumble?
Betty Grumble is a monster. She represents all the hypocritical, tortured, backwards prejudices and hierarchy honouring, that permeates the Australian landscape. She is an experiment with the grotesque, abject, camp methodologies and is ultimately a parody.
You were an advocate and a participant for the rally against the US company Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant in Melbourne. This issue must be very important to you. Can you please explain your viewpoint on these pageants?
This IS very important to me! I am a kind of ‘Anti-Mascot’ to the ‘Pull The Pin On Beauty Pageants For Children Campaign’. I appear as Betty Grumble but speak through her as Emma Maye at rallies. I believe that Child Beauty Pageants need to be stopped because they teach children that their body is their currency. They program little girls to judge themselves and each other on how much they look like the rigid beauty ideal that Western Society has established so strongly. Not only is it squashing the celebration of difference, pageantry is a farce that perpetuates women as objects to be judged and cast aside.
What do you have to say when the organiser’s claim that these pageants enable the children to “learn confidence”?
Excrement. Go to a drama class, join a debating team, build a treehouse or play some hockey.
Feminism. What is your personal definition of the word today and how it has evolved?
Feminism is the acknowledgement of the persistence of women as the second sex. Feminism is the struggle for both men and women, queer, straight, trans or other to abolish the sex gender system and instill equality in every aspect of our existence. It is also sensitivity to all corruption, environmental, racism, classism etc. It is solidarity. Feminism is an important word to embrace. I meet people who scoff at Feminism, buying into the thinking that it is a ‘man-hating-agenda’. This is just a boring hate tactic marketed by the media! We have to acknowledge our sisters that have gone before us, we have to evolve with the changing world to free all people. Feminism has evolved by taking on many varying (some argue conflicting) forms, the best thing about Feminism is, that in it’s truest form it celebrates and embraces difference.
What would you ultimately like people to take home from seeing one of your performances?
Solidarity! I like to think that the performance ‘gifts’ I offer can inspire a collective experience through laughter and horror. Everyone will respond to Betty in a different way. She is divisive. This element of performance is sometimes dangerous but a necessary part of having a strong opinion that I communicate through my body. In my experience as Betty thus far…. You either love her or hate her, and both work!
Now onto Gorelesque 3. Without giving too much away, what can the audience expect from your act/s?
The Gorelesque audience can expect an introduction to Betty Grumble! They can expect a parade, a pageant, a ‘sexy’ dance, and witness the decay of a Beauty Queen…Her insides spilling out…
How do you feel you fit into the whole theme of Gorelesque?
I fit in because Betty is a MONSTER!
What is your personal favourite performer in the show? Why?
I freaking love Glita Supernova… OH BOY is she a TREAT! TA-DAH! It is totally overwhelming and satisfying to be surrounded by such a strong and vibrant cast of performers. It’s a babe fest.
What are your plans for 2012?
I plan to train overseas, keep developing the Betty Grumble contagion and produce my full length show ‘Betty Grumble is Gagging For It’ !
Where would you like to see Betty Grumble evolve?
I would like Betty Grumble to evolve into a Feminist Icon. I want her to infiltrate the mainstream… I have visions of Betty Grumble on the cover of men’s magazine’s… being a weather girl… walking the cat-walk… and vomiting on celebrities.
Any last comments?
WEE! I love GORELESQUE!
Red Bennies scratches the itch with the Eccentric, Eclectic and Fabulous Fez Fanaana.
When and how did your realise this was the life you were going to lead?
My father was an amazing rugby league player who left Samoa on a scholarship to a renowned college. He was the first in the history of his family to be educated in a western sense and later migrated to Australia after churning out 5 children with my exhausted mother. My father of course wanted me to follow in his footsteps of sport and academia. I did my best to do so, until I realised I wanted to perform. I particularly wanted to be a physical performer and later a gender bent performer. I was playing representative rugby league, which made it even worse for my father, when I eventually dropped out and made a transition into the performing arts.
It was while kicking a football that I realised that I wanted to be dancer. I remember my follow through after kicking the football, almost kicking myself in the head. It felt good! Definitely..
Was it a conscious decision or did it all just fall into place?
I definitely knew that I wanted to perform, or at least be a ‘show-off’ of some description. The style, content, skill and showmanship fell into place. Unlike trained performers I had to develop independently. This was not by choice but I am thankful for it now. I think it sets me apart from other dancers, drag queens, MCs, cabaret and theatre performers.
Can you explain a little about what it was like growing up in Ipswitch?
I didn’t think anything much about growing up in Ippy. I thought everyone was experiencing the same thing as me…as you do when you are a kid. I think it made me resilient, resourceful and with an alternative way of thinking. My parents struggled to move to Australia to give me family the best opportunity so we always made the most of what we had and where we were…if we didn’t we would get a fierce hiding or a stern stalking to.
Hehehehehe… I love coconut discipline.
Are you mainly self-taught?
Yes. I haven’t had any formal dance training. I begged my parents to put me in dance school but we couldn’t afford it and footy was more important. Thanks to the help of my theatre lecturer, I dropped out of my course after a year and a half. Bes Marshal was her name, and she kinda hinted heavily that I would do so much better if I were to get out there and just do it.
How young were you when you first started performing? Who did you perform for?
My mother was a traditional Samoan Drummer and she used to make us dance to traditional stuff growing up. I would always want to be a Hula dancer…but that was not what the boys did.
You have a multitude of projects and ventures under your belt. What did it begin with?
I started out with Polyoxic Dance Theatre 12 years ago. I formed the group with a cousin who had a similar up bringing, back ground and aspirations.
You are an independent artist, performer, choreographer, arts worker, host/MC, producer and an ambassador for Pacific and Indigenous culutres… Firstly, where do you find the time?
I have always wanted to do everything and I just somehow make it happen now. I have worked my ass off to generate work for a long time. Now I feel like I am reaping the rewards from blindly, confidently, earnestly and independently creating work that I believe in and that feels right on my body and in my head…even though people might think I have just thrown together what I do. It is calculated bedlam.
Secondly, what do you hope to be concentrating more on and developing more in the near future?
I am focusing on creating work as opposed to producing stuff. I love producing/orchestrating projects but I think I have loads of time to do that. I am getting on a bit so I need to focus on physically performing while I can still touch my toes! I’ve got loads of time to keep performing but I also have loads of shit that I want to do which makes me nervous and excited about the future.
I am working on a massive project with Polytoxic (polytoxiclovesyou.com) next year. It will be the largest scale work that I have done and it have just recieved a massive chunk of funding to make it happen. That is a first for the company, but it has been a long time coming..
The show is called ‘Rat Trap’ and we are working with some amazing people like collaborative director Annie Davey, Choreographer Neridah Mathieu, Designer Jonathon Oxlade, Dramaturge Katherine Kellie, and of course Polytoxic in full company mode, including Mark Winmill, Lisa Faalafi, Leah Shelton, Amanda-lyn Pearson and my Brother Natano Faanana.
How did you and Mark Winmill meet?
We met in a “bogan” pub in Brisbane. Well that is the short story. I actually approached Mark when I was dancing in a faggy dance troupe for the Queens Ball. Mark was doing aerials and I decided to grow some balls and introduce myself…he ignored me. 6 months later he introduced himself to me and I ignored him. We finally met again and decided to not ignore each other...!
How long have you been performing together
We've been together for almost 9 years. We started performing together about 4 years into the relationship. We had to make sure that we had the boundaries set and that we would not fuck the relationship up.
How would he describe you in one sentence?
Creative brat child control freak idiot friendly coconut.
How long did it take from idea to show for the Briefs Production?
‘Briefs’ was a bit of a mistake. Kinda anyway. It started as a late night Speak-Easy and Cabaret that was put together by a small collective of Brisbane based male physical performers including myself. As performers we all work as freelance and or within other companies. Briefs was a bit of a scape goat for trying out new late night naughty work and was a way for performers to let loose and experiment. This was 3 years ago. Riding off the success of these small independent nights meant that we could naturally develop the show with no pressure. It also meant that we could gradually grow the show at our own pace. That was once we established that this thing that we were doing could be a show.
You have just returned from a very successful International Tour for Briefs. Did you have a favourite Country or venue to perform in?
Edinburgh is an amazing place. The city itself is stunning and the people really got what we did.
What is your favourite Circus skill to perform? Is there anything you would like to learn how to do?
I am actually the Bearded Lady of the Circus and my skill lies more so in the world of dance and physical theatre. I am training in a few things but mainly for fun. I love foot juggling. I am keen to one day have a foot juggling act. Of course I want to do it in drag too. Foot juggle a giant lipstick….
What would you like to see for the future of performing arts / boylesque / circus in Australia?
What I would like to see in burlesque in general is the game to be lifted so it can be considered in the realm of theatre, opera, ballet etc. I would like to see more skill incorporated into burlesque like it has in the past. It bores me that there is a very simplified reinvention of burlesque that only pays homage to the beauty but forgets about the potential for political bite, clowning and for the chance to really dance and physically celebrate the form and what the body can do.
I look forward to seeing what happens with circus in the near future in Australia. I think we are feeling a new movement after the franchising of circus through institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Places like NICA have produced some of the foremost leading international circus artists. There just seems to be a little gap at the moment and it feels like the institutionalization of circus is still finding its feet.
What recommendations could you give to those people out there who want to get into performing arts?
Make it happen by any means. Be resourceful. Be open to criticism. Don’t make excuses for mediocrity. Be prepared to make mistakes. Be prepared to lay your creativity out for people to judge, but also be solid and confident about what you can do, what you want to do and what you want to sa
What did you enjoy about performing at Red Bennies last year?
The world of Red Bennies is a fresh and inviting one. I recently posted my opinion of Red Bennies on facecrack, which probably sums it up.
Red Bennies is not a step back into the old world of the early 20th century; it does not just recreate an era of Vaudeville, Circus or Burlesque. It is by far no means a Speak-Easy or watering hole or claims to be, which entertained the varied classes from the middle class to the troupes. No. It is a club that pays homage to all of the above bringing a cocktail of shit hot up and coming performers onto the Australian club scene with a creed dedicated to style, urbanity & panache.
“From the beginning of recorded history, variety entertainment has flourished wherever the common people gather.” – someone smart
Without giving too much away, what can the audience expect from your performance at Red Bennies? Why should people come to see An Awful Lot of Vaudeville?
I am challenging myself as an MC to work more towards Stand Up. I think drag has an interesting culture of engaging with an audience. I want to push that world a bit and fuck around with it. Stand up is such a white male world and I want there to be room for an Immigrant Bearded Tranny.
Red Bennies unravels some of the story behind Sonja Schebeck - the extraordinary aerial & fire-breathing violinist - starring in Chloé Charody's 'The Carnival'
How old were you when you started playing violin?
I was 3 ½. Friends of my parents gave us tickets to see the Sydney Symphony kids education concerts at the Opera House and from then on I would walk around the house pretending to play the violin with pencils, rulers, whatever I could find. My parents thought this phase would pass but…it didn't, and I eventually started lessons studying Suzuki Method with Barbara Hayward.
How did you and Chloé Charody meet? And how did the idea of Ilythian come into being?
I was studying with Christopher Kimber at the Sydney Conservatorium and I met Chloé there – she was studying Composition. She was putting together a concert and I played one of her pieces. Our mutual respect for each other quickly led to us working together.
Ilythian was at first an ensemble to showcase Chloé's music, then as time went on we started to explore new ideas in the way we presented the concerts, creating a new experience and making it more accessible and fun. Press fast forward and now we have ‘The Carnival’.
Who are your major influences/role models?
Really too many to list! I admire anyone who sticks to their integrity (both in artistic and other fields), who is individual and spontaneous in their approach, willing to experiment and push boundaries and that never play a certain way simply because somebody told them they should.
I'm very lucky at present to be working with such talented and creative people.
How long did it take you to learn all your circus skills? Did you find it quite challenging at first?
I was taught fire-eating by Nellie Collins – stuntman extraordinaire who works with amazing act Liqueur Flambé.
I think the biggest challenge at first was fear – it's pretty much against all instincts to stick a flaming torch in your mouth. But he taught me that as long as you treat the fire with respect, including taking necessary safety precautions, you will be ok.
As my confidence increased, I was able to develop my skills into fire taming and wasn't scared to experiment with other elements of circus.
The continuing challenge is to find ways of integrating violin and circus elements without sacrificing musical performance.
How does the Carnival in London differ to the Melbourne Carnival?
'The Carnival’ is constantly evolving and growing. Each time it is presented, there are new things added. Our previous experiences with London audiences have been great - they're really into the arts over there and willing to try out new things. We had an amazing audience, even though we did not know many people.
The Melbourne Carnival involves quite a bit more circus – because of all the brilliant performers here! The audiences tend to be louder, more involved. It's a great energy and you can't beat the home vibe!
The next stage show (in London in October) will be to expand the production, making it longer with a more detailed story and bigger cast. The eventual aim is to have a full-scale circus-opera on our hands.
How would you personally describe The Carnival?
Hmmm.. I don't want to say too much - I'll let people make up their own minds.
The question we ask is: How will the audience describe The Carnival? Because ultimately they are the reason we are here.
What do you love about performing in The Carnival?
Apart from playing Chloé Charady’s absolutely brilliant music, I love the freedom that I have on stage and the chance to create, interact with the audience and see how far I can take my violin performance.
It is a show where really anything is possible - nothing is 'not allowed' or ‘out of the question’.
What is it like working with Nigel Kennedy?
He is the most incredible musician with limitless creativity and infectious energy. You never know what to expect on stage. And such cool person too - so down to earth and generous.
It is a real privilege and I'm learning so much.
You are really trying to bring this incredible genre of music to be more approachable and relatable to a modern audience. Where would you like to see the future of classical music?
I would love to see more people engaging with classical music and classical music engaging with more people. I think the key to this is more variety in presentation and more choice for people in the type of concerts and ways they can experience classical music. The genre needs to evolve with the audience.
I would also like to see more subjects in Performance Development and Presentation included in Tertiary Music Study.
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
To continue to build on the work with Chloé, further developing new presentations of classical music continuing to bring this great music to a wider audience. There's a crazy little chamber orchestra project cooking up too, which will hopefully be ready within the next 5 years.
Any last comments Sonja?
See you at the bar after the show.
Red Bennies gets down and dirty with the Vivacious & Visceral Viola Vixen.
What were you doing professionally before arriving at La Lola Salon in 2006?
Managing and promoting heavy metal bands and working as a vegan pastry chef in an anarchist café.
What led you to this point?
My father was a music promoter and I had a love for heavy metal music like many angsty teenagers. I also loved to cook so I started a vegan catering business when I was 18 and was/am passionate about sustainable food and cooking. When I moved to Brisbane from Byron Bay I started working as a part-time cook. I was planning to start University, but Burlesque got in the way!
What advice do you give to those people out there interested in working professionally in the scene?
There is no time for resting on your laurels! Work hard, challenge yourself, constantly improve, maintain passion and you might just pay your bills. You shouldn’t perform burlesque because you are looking for a career, you should do it because once you discover it you can’t do anything else. It’s obsession more than a profession!
What do you love about teaching?
I love watching woman transform into confident & sexy performers. It’s endlessly rewarding seeing a shy girl come into the classroom and leave wanting to Tassle & Twirl!
Most of the women I teach haven’t felt comfortable with their bodies for years. Being able to assist them with feeling good about themselves keeps me motivated for the masses of work that comes with running a business!
Do you have a most memorable performance? Where was it?
Yes! Coney Island, New York.
It was the ‘This or That Show’ at the sideshow stage produced by Julie Atlas Muz and Fredini. A few notorious performers from the cast took me for a walk on the boardwalk and showed me the rides. I felt like crying when we got to the beach because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was being able to perform with these people on such a historic stage while being made to feel so important. I was 24 and a life long dream had just come true. I guess Coney Island is the part of burlesque that I most aspire to, more than something like ‘Miss Exotic World’ for example. I've always wanted to be a Carny Showgirl!
Performing at the historical Wintergarten Theatre in Berlin recently was a similarly special and beautiful show that is worth a mention...
What do you hope for the future of the Australian Burlesque industry?
Australian Burlesque seems to be earning itself quite the reputation in the Neo-Burlesque community. Many of our performers push themselves with multi-disciplined performance, comedy and strong narrative. I think of burlesque as a sexy performance art and Australians are representing that well. Performers like Imogen Kelly and Mark Winmill represent this for me. I think we are heading in the right direction!
What do you love about performing?
What don’t I love? I enjoy most aspects of Burlesque but nothing compares to the perfect feeling of performing new work in front of a loud, loving audience and nailing your act.
A little more about your parents Viola? A club owner/meditation teacher Father and a poet/playboy cover girl Mother… It sounds like a very interesting childhood.
Haha interesting to say the least! My childhood was a total contradiction! My mother was a gypsy and model who ran to the hills of Byron Bay with me when I was little and became a nudist poet! My father was a hippy who became a music promoter and entrepreneur living the high life. My childhood was split between the two going from a nude, Byron kid in tie-dye to 5 star hotels and designer clothing. I went to 13 schools in total because I was usually allowed to change schools when I felt like it. They are extremely loving, creative, generous people who have always encouraged me to be a free spirit. I’m not sure dad wanted that to result in G-strings and pasties but he is still proud of me.
In his words “I just wish you would stop putting those buttons on your nipples”.
What are some of your other passions in life?
Food! I am looking at starting a sexy cooking show for TV in the next few years. I can’t talk much about this yet but lets just say it’s possible my next incarnation will be as a television cook. I also love animals, music and partying!
Without giving too much away, what can the Red bennies audience expect from your Metropolis 2040 act?
Bizarre space-ey go-go and sexy visual striptease.
What does the remainder of 2011 hold in store for you?
I’m working on an exciting project called The Better Than You Revue (hits Red Bennies stages the 25th & 26th September). It’s a pretty bent burlesque show. The show features some incredible performers and pushes the boundaries of burlesque. This will keep me pretty busy for the next year. I am also starting to produce a few more shows for Brisbane and for festivals as well as running my school The Bombshell Burlesque and Beauty Academy.
No rest for the wicked!
Red Bennies uncovers some unknown truths behind the Sword-Swallowing Contortionist Extraordinaire.
When and how did you realize you could contort the way you do?
I started training my back flexibility when I was about 13 which helped me learn how to do Martial Arts Acrobatics. The flexibility in my legs was a bonus to practicing a lot of Ju-Jitsu. My body essentially knows now that when I tell it to bend and stretch, it obeys, quite naturally.
I also used to be an Aerial Dancer, however my shoulders began to weaken and they became too unstable to continue with this. I ultimately chose to use this weakness to my advantage and I now use my hyper-mobile shoulder sockets to allow me to contort through Tennis racquets and Straight jackets…
How did you learn the Art of Sword-Swallowing?
Well, years ago I damaged a disk in my spine and spent three months barely able to move. Throughout this period I began studying and reading everything I could about performing: Mind over Matter, and traditional Sideshow techniques.
I was able to perform many sideshow stunts and had already attempted to slide my toothbrush down my tongue in an effort to learn to control my gag reflex.. Not such a pleasant experience, however, being barely able to move or train any other skill I had to start somewhere. I was aware that good posture was vital in sword swallowing, and I knew that if I could perform this technique with a spinal injury, then essentially I would have an act that I could perform for the rest of my life! So, I moved beyond dedication to becoming quite obsessed with the stunt, and now I just do what I do…
When did you first start performing?
I started performing in nightclubs throughout the Goth Circuit in Melbourne when I was about 19. I was mostly performing Aerial Dance, Tissue, or Lyra, but was also juggling and contorting. My career has taken me so many places now that I struggle to remember them all, or even where it all began!
How many world records have you broken?
Presently I think I hold around 12 with the Sword Swallowers Association International (Unlike the Guiness Book of World Records, The SSAI hold all the information and records on sword swallowing).
A few years back the World Record for the most weight lifted off a swallowed sword was 20kg, this moved up to 22.5 kg. It was then broken by an amazing Sword Swallower, Thomas Blackthorne, bringing the record up to 25kg!
In January of 2011, I broke that record by lifting 31 kilograms from my sword.
The rest of my stunts are original twists, or variations on old stunts. I'm an artist and honestly not that interested in beating other people, but rather in doing something that has never been done before! I have based my career around this. The original stunts I am probably most proud of are the Sword Swallow Back-flip and swallowing 2 neon tubes and sliding a sword between them.
What do you say to people that haven’t seen you perform live and think the sword is fake?
To be honest, I am not all that fussed. I regularly stab my sword into the dance floor and stage hard enough for the audience to see the sword is real. If people are still skeptical after this, then they always will be and it would only lessen the quality of the show if I were to try and demonstrate this fact more.
What is your favorite thing about performing at Red Bennies?
Aside from the fact that Red Bennies is the greatest Nightclub Cabaret venue in Melbourne, the vibe and atmosphere is always abuzz!
Any hints Aerial?
Fire. Lot’s of fire!