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by Paula Towers
posted 21/01/2020

Review: Betty Blokk-Buster Reimagined

Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Sydney’s Hyde Park North, 7 – 26 January

Reviewed by Paula Towers

Part of the 2020 Sydney Festival, transgressive cabaret Betty Blokk-Buster Reimagined inspires and delights with its confectionary of costumes, characters and theatrical delivery.

Multi-talented Josh Quong Tart has reinvented the original raunchy role and his irascible charm is enthusiastically received.

Conceived and portrayed in 1975 by the outrageous and irrepressible Reg Livermore, his daring delivery created a racy new direction for Sydney’s theatre scene.

With Livermore’s stamp of approval, the reprised role of Betty welcomes back some eccentric original characters as well as introducing equally cheeky interpretations of contemporary ones.

Set in the alluring atmosphere of the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, this cabaret is directed by Craig Ilott (of Smoke & Mirrors fame) and produced for Red Line Productions (custodians of Sydney’s Old Fitzroy Theatre) in association with Sydney Festival.

The show begins, as the original did, with Betty Blokk-Buster appearing in frilly apron and high heels, with a white painted face and bare bottom. Quong Tart proceeds to revisit other Livermore creations including Beryl, who is really chained to the kitchen sink and is a bit of a smash hit with the audience (pun intended!), and bigoted old Leonard, while amusing new characters include Jane “who likes to complain” – and don’t we all know someone like that!

Playing an important part are the costumes designed by Tim Chappel which are on saucy point for Betty and shown to equally sexy effect by backing vocalists Kaylah Attard, Melissa Pringle and Elenoa Rokobaro.

Another major contributor to the performance was the band led by musical director Andrew Worboys, its accomplished artists versatile enough to deliver the eclectic track choice with aplomb; including Kate Bush’s Wow, Macey Grey’s Sexual Revolution, and Jamie Cullum’s Age of Anxiety. Not surprisingly, Billy Joel’s Captain Jack and appropriate encore, The Show Must Go On by Leo Sayer, were crowd-pleasers.

Vocally, Quong Tart is mesmerising, the most compelling characters appearing to be the female ones which he inhabits so convincingly and is able to draw out the most drama. The show is an entertaining reinvention of a true Aussie original.

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