BWW REVIEW: 45 Years After Her Debut, Betty Blokk-Buster Returns To The Stage With BETTY BLOKK-BUSTER REIMAGINED Now Starring Josh Quong Tart
Sunday 12th January 2020, 6:30pm, Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent
The cabaret character that changed Australian theatre when she first appeared in 1975 is revived and reinvented for the 21st century in BETTY BLOKK-BUSTER REIMAGINED. Reg Livermore's career changing character and others given a darker rock edge as Josh Quong Tart dons the whiteface clown makeup and frilly white apron to entertain, titillate and most importantly challenge audiences all over again with a combination of classic and new material.
Reg Livermore has joined with Mary Rachel Brown and Louis Nowra (writers) to update the collection of "has-beens, battlers, freaks and survivors" with new characters that the multi-talented Quong Tart brings to life under Craig Ilott's direction. On Brian Thomson's bulb bordered circular stage which echoes the original staging, characters which reflect contemporary society with all its flaws play out in the appropriate venue of the 19th century style mirrored tent. As with Livermore's original creation, Quong Tart is supported by singers with Kaylah Attard, Melissa Pringle and Elanoa Rokobaro forming the new backing trio. Musical Director Andrew Worboys on keys leads the band of Tina Harris (Bass), Glenn Morehouse (Guitar) and Andy Davies (Drums).
BETTY BLOKK-BUSTER REIMAGINED initially treats the audience to a trip down memory lane as Livermore's opening act of the bare bottomed hausefrau who 'vants to mek du heppy' recreates the bossy cleaner but soon new characters are introduced. Whilst modern society is generally more used to the cross dressing and bare flesh that originally scandalized and scintillated 1970's conservative Australia, this new work does make an effort to still push the boundaries with bondage gear for a hilarious nosey neigh-bour but it is possibly the grotesque caricatures that are likely to pose the greater challenge as the comedy cuts closer to reality with characters like the misogynistic manager and bigoted nursing home escapee.
While there is a parade of fabulous costumes, designed by Tim Chappel, the brilliance of the work naturally comes from the man beneath the greasepaint. Quong Tart gives the new cavalcade of characters a darker edge as his rock god mystique underpins his renditions of pieces like Billy Joel's Captain Jack and Macy Gray's Sexual Revolution. He has a wonderful comic timing and a flair for voices to go with a physicality that allows him to morph into the weird and wonderful characters that make up the 60 minute show.
If you remember the original, take the opportunity and reconnect with Betty and her 'friends'. If you weren't around in the 70's or at least werent old enough to experience this important part of cabaret history, come and see a wonderful example of the artform that challenges and confronts in an entertaining and engaging evening of cheeky entertainment.
Photos: Yaya Stempler