Razorhurst at 34B
April 6th 2011
Nick La Rosa
Back in the 20s, east Sydney housed a grimy little suburb called Razorhurst. Filled with gangsters, artists, junkies, and the odd good-time girl, Razorhurst encapsulated Sydney’s seamy underbelly – the good ol’ days before even the Cross put on its finery. If you, like me, are still mourning the loss of that fabled time you didn’t even get to live in the first place, the new burlesque offering from 34B is for you.
Titled Razorhurst, the show draws from Sydney’s salacious past to bring you an evening of theatre, cabaret, and burlesque, with a smattering of music, circus and visuals that’ll knock your garters off. Hosted by long-time cabaret star Christa Hughes, and featuring burlesque legends such as Imogen Kelly, Lola the Vamp, Baby Blue Bergman, Donna Dynamite, Venus Vamp and Electric Dreams, Razorhurst is enough to get even the stuffiest of us a little hot under the collar. I teased some more info out of Lola the Vamp…
FBi: First up, could you briefly describe the show for me? What should we expect when we come along?
Lola: Each performer has crafted a show based on the 20s Razorhurst theme, so you can expect some dark and sexy shows, full of Jazz Age imagery, exploring the characters and environment of Darlinghurst in the 20s. My show is based on the idea of a show you would have seen in
a Shanghai Opium den of the time, perhaps she was a touring showgirl, who has moved onto the rich pickings of Sydney for a moment. I'm aiming to provide a glimpse of the kind of risqué entertainments that were available. My prop is an antique paper umbrella that has been passed down from my great-great-great aunt to my Nan, then to me. It was given to Auntie Winnie by her Chinese boarders during this time. Other shows are character studies of the notorious women who ran the rival razor gangs. It's a dirty look at a dirty and glamorous time.
Razorhurst sounds like it really encapsulates a wild, artistic and slightly seedy moment in Sydney's history. Do you think Sydney still has this kind of underbelly or has it died out with the increasing gentrification of the suburbs and the regulation of live venues?
Well, of course, I'm a good girl from the Northern Beaches, who was never allowed into Darlinghurst, although I was born at the women's hospital there. From growing up in Seaforth, I'd say that Darlinghurst still has that atmosphere that can only be achieved with the patina of age and time. I'm sure it is a very different place, I don't live in Sydney anymore, but when I come I often stay in bohemian little hotels with no elevators, which lets my mind wander back in time. I still think it's wild and seedy. I'm wild and seedy enough, so I tend not to try to seek it out in every city – it finds me!
A lot of people talk about burlesque in terms of the theatrical, or the empowerment it may offer women in displaying their bodies, or as a kind of high art form of titillation. What does burlesque represent for you?
Burlesque for me is the moment that reality takes flight into imagination. It is the use of objects that carry meanings and stories, like an antique prop or a corset, layered on top of each other to tell a rich visual story and then stripped away to reveal a fictional body created by the performer on that stage. I aim for a brazen sophistication, to elevate the reveal of the body to something fine and dandy, not something tacky – which isn't necessarily achieved through modesty or ending up