Walking on stage veiled in red and singing in deep, gothic tones, Miss Bertie Page began a show that I won’t soon forget – not just for the amazing music and delightful commentary, but also for the informative history lesson I received.
Serpentine is an ode to the corset, the most notorious garment in the history of the world. Thought of as both an instrument of oppression and liberation for females of centuries past, the corset is actually a lot more important than one might think; important enough to write a whole show dedicated to them. There is never a dull moment in this show, even if most of the talk is about an undergarment.
Bertie Page Clinic is a burlesque rock group from Brisbane who have been spreading their eloquent and infernal brand of music across the world in various festivals and one-off shows. Having also released three full-length albums, Bertie Page Clinic have proven themselves a well seasoned band and staple among the queer performing community.
Bertie Page herself is a fantastic vocalist, with one hell of a range. She can contort her voice into any form, only faltering slightly on low notes that do end up sounding a tad nasally and forced. Despite that, her vocal gymnastics absolutely blew me away, especially in wilder, more punk-influenced songs. The rest of the band is equally as impressive. I’ve never seen a nose-flute used on stage before, so I’m not sure I can judge, but I’m pretty sure that it was played spectacularly.
The band proved their ability to mix and match styles while remaining in absolute control of everything they play. Performing everything from Latin inspire rock to classic Italian Opera, Bertie Page Clinic seemingly have a lot of tricks up their collective sleeve (though I’m not sure Page is quite comfortable with Italian Opera just yet).
As already mentioned, one of my favourite aspects of the show was the discussions on corsets. The examples of famous corsets from history, such as the medical corset worn by Frida Kahlo, added some interesting flavour to the performance although, of course, it wouldn’t be the same without Page’s wit and energy.
Serpentine is a raunchy and dark show, especially when Page begins bumping and grinding amongst the crowd. What sort of ruined the atmosphere a bit was the fact the Soul Box still had open windows letting in sunlight. This weird mix of artificial and natural light made the performance look a bit tacky, even though this definitely wasn’t enough of a problem to put me off completely. I can only imagine how good this show would be in some sort of back-alley French burlesque club.
Oh, the corset! What a devil you have been over the years.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: The Soul Box, 252 Hindley St, Adelaide
Season: 27-29 November
Duration: 60 mins
The Feast Festival runs from 15 – 30 November 2014.