Burlesque, Bach and bumper stickers
This issue of Queensland Pride comes in the aftermath of Big Gay Day last Sunday, one of the highlights of my time in Queensland so far. I saw lots of people I hadn’t seen for a while, and got to catch up with some colleagues up from Sydney for the day – lots of fun was had by all.
Keeping the entertainment running hot in this issue is the reigning World Queen of Burlesque Imogen Kelly, who’s coming to Brisbane with her one woman show, Herstory. Kelly’s credentials go way back: in 2000 she co-founded Sydney’s Gurlesque, Australia’s first (modern) burlesque club and the world’s first lesbian strip club.
Burlesque may have been around for a century or so, but Kelly says its strangeness, its ‘queerness’ in both old-and new-fashioned senses needs to be respected:
“It used to be just the freaks. All performers were like that, circus included, and sideshow or burlesque. It was people on the outside of society who had a lot to say. Their art was always very challenging. I think it’s too soft at the moment. It’s not the best thing for them, for artists, I think people should be challenged.”
Kelly will be performing Herstory: tableaux vivants of women throughout history. “We have the war-like queen, which was Elizabeth,” Kelly tells me. “Then Marie Antoinette, the silly slut, the whore – as the peasants thought. Then Emily Bronte is the power of the pen.” (Lovers of Hollywood will appreciate the show’s quick change section where Kelly morphs from one screen goddess to another.)
Kelly’s thoughtful and humorous take on burlesque – she loves its satirical possibilities – means in her hands the genre should remain truly ‘in your face’.
From one kind of specialist art from to another: sacred oratorio. Like opera, but minus staging and costumes, these were a way that subjects such as the crucifixion of Christ could be played out on stage. J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion is coming to Brisbane with countertenor Tobias Cole. Cole is described both as an alto and a countertenor; in short, he uses a type of falsetto (think Jimmy Somerville!) with an eerie beauty and strength because it’s being produced by an adult male, rather than a boy.
“Singing was central to my identity as a child,” Cole says. “St James's on Thursdays and Sundays, and my school choir on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I also sang as a treble in two productions with Opera Australia.”
We’re devoting much of our news space this week to a story that seems straight out of the American mid-west: a local politician who founded the town’s gun shop rides around in a truck with a bumper sticker that says the only right gays have is the right to die.
Except this happened in Gympie in 2005, and the case that a group of local gay and bisexual women brought against the now ex-councillor reached a significant point recently in the High Court.
According to the former councillor, Ron Owen, my interview with him was the first time anyone in the gay media has contacted him to hear what he has to say. Whether or not that’s true, you can read exactly what he thinks about gay people and rights in this issue of Queensland Pride.