Cabaret Festival Review: Betty Blokk-Buster Follies

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Presented by Eric Dare and The Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 14 June 2016

You probably don’t think of the Dunstan Playhouse as a cinema, but that’s exactly what it’s been turned into for the 2016 Cabaret Festival’s Movie Night series.

The first film to be dug from the vaults and screened specially for the season is one that highlights the very best of Australian Cabaret: Betty Blokk-Buster Follies, directed by Peter Batey and starring the irreplaceable Reg Livermore.

Livermore is one of Australia’s most legendary cabaret/drag performer, and for good reason. Even decades after the recording of his incredible solo show, Livermore still knows how to pull a crowd and tie them around his finger. Livermore was on stage last night to introduce the film with his usual charisma and weapons-grade wit. He recounted the good ol’ days in which he was asked to put together this two hour solo show in only three months. It was a tough ask, obviously, but Livermore wasn’t daunted. The result is one of the funniest and most talent-filled solo shows in Australian history!

Betty Blokk-Buster Follies is a collection of skits and songs performed by Livermore as an astounding variety of character. Betty Blokk-Buster herself is a suspiciously goose-stepping German maid, hell bent on making people laugh… with an iron fist. Vaseline Amylnitrate is a snorting, boozing Aussie Rules player who’s taken up the ballet.

It’s actually amazing how much Livermore can transform with a simple costume change and tweaks to his voice. The voices of his female characters are always spot on and his drunken slurs are ridiculously funny, full of subtle word-play. This movie really shows Livermore’s skill not just in performing, but in writing and creating unique and hilarious characters. The character of Vaseline also proves he’s a triple (quadruple) threat, with some skill in ballet dancing!

The renditions of classics like Captain Jack, Money Makes the World Go Round and Take a Walk on the Wild Side are spectacularly performed with hardly a fault to be heard. Livermore sings with such glamour and style that each song in the recording is an experience in itself. He draws you in with such skill that it was easy to forget that the audience were watching a film instead of the live show.

While the performance itself is something of an Aussie drag masterpiece, the recording is a fair bit dated and scratchy, with sound quality that is painfully tinny. At high volumes, such as in crescendos or periods of intense laughter (which happen rather often), the sound in the Playhouse was screeching and almost deafening.

But even then, you can’t argue with the classics. The small but devoted turn out to the screening is proof that Betty Blokk-Buster lives on.

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating (out of 5): 4

One night only – Season ended

Photo Credit: http://www.reglivermore.com/regshows_betty.html

 

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