The Freak and the Showgirl at the Southbank Centre
The Freak and the Showgirl played the Southbank Centre for one night only on Thursday night. The queue wrapped around the block as people waited for the over-18s-only “adult cabaret”. The act, comprised of American Julie Atlas Muz, and Englishman Matt Fraser, and was quite possibly the most unabashed example of burlesque-meets-sideshow we have ever seen.
During the almost two and a half hours of the show, the pair performed delightfully unexpected moments of depth mingled seamlessly with unapologetically raw sex in a participatory, celebratory expression of the venerable old form.
The act started with Fraser telling us: “look at what you like, for as long as you like”. And like Fraser, we should take a moment to focus on the physiques of the pair. Muz is curvy and blonde, with milky white skin barely covered at the start by a red sequined micro-bikini. Fraser is athletic, in his 40s, and has hands that project, seal-flipper-like, from his torso at the ends of his short arms. Lacking thumbs, Fraser later explains that his condition is a result of thalidomide given to his mother in the 60s during pregnancy to combat morning sickness.
Fraser’s exhortation loosened us from our political sensibilities and set an expectation of freedom in what is arguably one of the most exploitative forms of live performance outside of the strip club. But as Matt “Seal Boy” Fraser tells us later: “all entertainment is exploitation”. And we are entertained, thoroughly.
The pair performed a series of vignettes, as a duo and as solo performers, alternating to give us variety and keep us riveted. We saw stripteases of various degrees of explicitness, beer-soaked orgies, and a pot-smoking Rastafarian vagina singing Redemption Song.
Daring, intelligent and titillating, The Freak and the Showgirl was a show not to be missed.