View Comments
Titty Bar strips back delusions of glamour
Titty Bar har Har. Picture by Nic Ellis/WA News

CABARET

Titty Bar Ha Ha

3 stars

The West Australian Spiegeltent

Review: Lucy Ballantyne

For a lover of the arts who is either too weird or too poor to attend shows in the Perth International Arts Festival, Fringe World provides.

In agreeing to attend Fringe World shows, one enters into some unwritten contract; what happens in the spiegeltent, stays in the spiegeltent. In spite of knowing this, somehow I still found myself unprepared for what was Titty Bar Ha Ha.

The cabaret show is set, as it suggests, in a speakeasy-style burlesque club in England during World War II, though this is by no means the binding theme of the performance. Beyond occasional police raids represented by sirens on the loud speaker, musically the show varied from 80s covers to the two female hostesses duelling on kazoos.

The Titty Bar Ha Ha sets a stage for our two glamorous hostesses, Hope and Gloria, who have worked at the club since their comedy of errors-style collusion on the murder of Gloria's husband and burial under the bar.

Like the historical location of the show, Hope and Gloria's previous misadventures are referenced constantly, but do not do more than provide a relevant backdrop for songs that declare 'I'm just a little bit psycho', and a convenient reason for one hostess to give a solo performance while the other leaves the stage.

Initially, I felt disappointed by what I perceived as a lack of cohesion in the show. There was obviously a strong vision, particularly given the time period is so aesthetically particular. It seemed to me like the popular-girl-on-year-12 muck-up-day corsets and massive thematic diversions between musical numbers outweighed the more-appropriate pin rolls and Union Jack bunting. It was just a bit messy.

The musical number that both opened and closed the show swayed me. The song begins with a praise of the art of burlesque before turning to a confession that, as we all may have feared, burlesque is just, in fact, stripping. It concludes with the declaration that this fact does not make burlesque any less respectable.

Titty Bar Ha Ha shocked me with its lewdness, but perhaps this is all part of its self-consciousness. Hope and Gloria declare burlesque is just taking your clothes off for money and that's okay. Any kind of illusion of historical accuracy is thin and flimsy, but the hostesses know it. As they interact with the audience they compliment their spectators: 'you are so vintage, darling'. They know 'vintage' is just a vague amalgamation of about a century, but that's the point.

And just as Titty Bar Ha Ha strips back its own delusions of grandeur, so it does any of Fringe World. There is no high-end filth: there is only this. Not for the faint of heart or taste.


Titty Bar Ha Ha ends on January 27.