[Not Scared to be Seen]
Night of the Queer is a cabaret-style production celebrating members of the LGBTQI community. Under the creative direction of James Luck and Rebekkah Schoonbeck, the production showcases a variety of talent from aerial acrobatics, the athleticism required for pole dancing, lip syncing, various dance styles and, my personal favourite, live singing.
The set is simple and fabulous – fairy lights hung from the ceiling drape from the back of the theatre, all meeting in the centre-rear of the stage. Six pillars on the stage provide a Roman-esque vibe. The only other accompaniment to the set is a fountain, stage left as well as a pole that is fixed in the centre front of the stage.
The audience layout is a combination of the generic theatre setup as well as tables laid out as if watching a proper cabaret show in a bar. I’m seated at the very front and I’m alone. My good friend bails last minute and it’s impossible to find someone else. My anxiety kicks in, as I foresee the opportunity it creates for the performers to single me out and dance on me. Anxious, I watch one of the staff members usher two lovely ladies over and seat them with me. My anxiety is lifted and I’m relieved knowing that they’ll fill up the empty space.
The music in the theatre suddenly stops and the lights dim, immediately forcing a few stragglers at the bar to rush to their seats. Out comes James Luck, parading around the stage dressed like a ringmaster at a circus. He showcases his vocal range on the Robbie Williams’ track ‘Let me Entertain you’ while the ensemble dance in sync, which makes me excited for what’s to come.
Immediately following the opening number, the impressive Ellyce Bisson’s athletic aerial acrobatics, using a hoop hung mid-air, elegantly evokes empathy. However, my focus is drawn to one of the two dancers on either side of her – Aeyla Samantha Duncan. Duncan’s vivid dance movements are fluid, soft and also replicate empathy. The overall act is very beautiful as it portrays a vulnerable and softer side versus the stereotypical sassy side expected of the LGBTQI community.
The following acts are drag queen Faasu Afoa-Purcell, pole dancer Kyle Holland and Bryony Skillington as Matron. Holland’s athleticism and Skillington’s humour and vocal range are out-of-this-world. Afoa-Purcell’s looked absolutely stunning in his impersonation of Tina Turner, although the performance would have benefitted more with some oomph and sass. Still, I found myself singing/dancing along and the drag queen act was fun. I was really impressed with all the running around in six-inch heels. Damn!
My favourite act of the night is none other than James Luck. Throughout the show, he provides the filler between the acts, allowing time for the other performers and dancers to change costume. In one segment, we made eye contact, but I was relieved when Luck sat on another patron one table over giving him a tasteful and teasing lap dance. Luck’s performance in the fountain as he bathed and splashed around reminded me of Beyonce’s video clip of her hit ‘Naughty Girl’. The act is very seductive and left me wanting to see more of him as he proved not only to be an amazing singer, but an amazing performer too.
The crowd favourite was the seamstress (Hamish McGregor) who steals the show with a version of the song ‘This is Me’ from the musical film ‘The Greatest Showman’. At this point, I’m singing along too (not well I might add) but I’m so emotional because of the message that it is okay to be a little different.
Overall, I found that each act had something different to say as it told a necessary story about each artist and the LGBTQI community. Night of the Queer is enjoyable on your own and/or a night out with friends. Although I wasn’t able to watch this with my good friend, I was able to make new friends and leave knowing that I’m proud to be me, even if I do get a little anxiety from time to time.
Night of the Queer 2018 plays at TAPAC as part of Auckland Fringe until 10 February.