Blaque Bordello


Blaque Bordello

Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

6th – 8th June 2013


Reviewed by Michelle Bull



Enter the faded velvet, smoke-and-mirrors world of the Blaque Bordello – a private and explosive environment of secret trysts, simmering jealousies and stark realities. You can have whatever you desire . . . if you pay the price. Concept and choreography by Penelope Mullen.



So if you kiss me,
If we touch,
Warning’s fair,
I don’t care,
Very much.*


*from I Don’t Care Much’- Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb.


Wow. Good things are happening at ACPA! Under the haze of a smoky cabaret lounge, Blaque Bordello, the newest production created by Penelope Mullen, exploded onto the Judy’s stage with fierce intention and a wealth of young talent.



Joined by the incomparable Brian Lucas and ACPA alumni musician, Jonathan Jeffrey, the cast of Blaque Bordello tore aside the velvet curtain to expose passion, lust, seduction and the achingly raw truth of human relationships and desire.


An intimate cabaret set surrounded a catwalk stage, giving the theatre a voyeuristic feel and allowing the audience a greater connection to the dancers. Seeing sweat gather and eyes flash with emotion as one, then two bodies moved in a shared intention gave the performance a visceral beauty and humanity that was testament to the skill of the performers and masterful intent of the choreography.


Rather than an hour of continuous narrative, Blaque Bordello gave a peepshow of vignettes – depicting the various shades of love, lust, desire and innocence in a combination of ensemble and solo/duo moments- punctuated by projected quotes, like the one below, eloquently articulating the physical.



Life is a play that does not allow testing. So, sing, cry, dance, laugh and live intensely, before the curtain closes and the piece ends with no applause.

Charles Chaplin



Continuity was provided through Lucas’s constant pursuit for fulfilment (at a price) and a killer soundtrack that featured original tracks and a pulsing beat that reverberated through our chests like a heartbeat.



As with any production that features individualised pieces, there were some standouts among the cast. Lucus’s double bass duet Pluck was one such moment, reminding me of the power of simplicity. The growth of what began as an exploration seemed to organically unfurl and become a conversation between dancers, music and the audience.


This was again the case with the mens duet in the bathtub. The balance of aggression and tenderness was breathtaking to watch, the honesty of this moment was so raw I found myself holding my breath as it unfolded.


The ensemble moments, the title track, Blaque Bordello in particular, were absolutely infectious and a force of energy; it is clear these young performers love what they do, and although I did find that some moments lacked the same level of sincerity of others, the commitment and energy poured into each and every moment and movement gave the production a momentum that left no room for concern. It is incredibly inspiring to see the talent emerging out of ACPA, and I for one will be sure to catch the next production.



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