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Cruising a monster wave of satire

Teodor Reljic (centre) as the transvestite psycho-analyst with a penchant for women’s underwear in an arousing session with his clients (Pete Farrugia and Bettina Borg Cardona). Photo: Stephen Buhagiar.

Teodor Reljic (centre) as the transvestite psycho-analyst with a penchant for women’s underwear in an arousing session with his clients (Pete Farrugia and Bettina Borg Cardona). Photo: Stephen Buhagiar.

Burlesque comedy is fun in itself but when it is painted in darker more macabre shades it becomes all the more interesting. And what could have been more interesting than attending a show on a ship?

It was the first time I enjoyed something more than dinner or a party in the hull of the Black Pearl at the Ta’ Xbiex Marina and this year’s offering of The Dazzle Troupe’s burlesque-style show took the semblance of a Monster Cruise.

With Noel Tanti as The Kapitan of this crazy cruise which resembled a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and Shaun of the Dead, with some South Park humour thrown in for good measure, the evening kicked off to a good start.

An introduction to his crew of weird and zany monsters set the scene for an alternative evening of black and blue comedy – which, as a description in itself, works very well to put across the kind of side-show fodder we were to receive.

Tanti was a personable and hearty captain whose sufficiently mysterious attitude about his “creations” evoked a sense of unsettlement in the audience.

Once his first exeunt left us wondering what was in store, Joseph Zammit walked in and presented himself as the Kapitan’s Evil Subconscious – in a long monologue which told of the depravity he intended to plunge the captain into and how it could not be escaped.

Looking like an older and more evil public school version of Pugsley, from the Addams Family, Zammit gave a good dramatic interpretation and had the audience giggling nervously as his dry wit was tinged with more threatening undertones.

I enjoyed his portrayal of the Evil Subconscious more than I did his rendering of Dyawne The Nerd later on in the show, where he recited a poem by Malcolm Galea in high blue comedic style – all about his masturbatory mishaps.

The poem was irreverently funny but somehow I didn’t take to the nerd’s characterisation, finding it rather inane. Following the Evil Subconscious’ recitation, Veronica Stivala played The Little Meh-Maid, an unfortunate diva who ends up singing about her woes on the god-forsaken cruise.

Accompanied by Alex Vella Gregory as Ċikku L-Poplu, on the keyboard, the satirical take on life these two gave was pure fun and Stivala’s great versatility was evident in tweaking her character’s mood swings, while Vella Gregory’s accompaniment was, as always excellent – adapting Disney’s famous Part of Your World song from The Little Mermaid to suit Stivala’s plaintive protestations.

I found the darker accompaniment to Marilú’s haunting solos in Maltese – Ġiġa and Ġiġa Returns, equally interesting – the satire being much darker and carrying an interesting evaluation of a shocking criminal case that happened over 50 years ago, but which still captivates the Maltese imagination. Marilú’s voice has a strong and earnest tone to it which makes it ideal for this type of interpretive song.

Stivala’s and Vella Gregory’s later interpretation of Bendy Wendy and Peter Panties respectively, in the sketch The Never-Ever-Land Show was not quite as enjoyable as their first appearance; mainly because the over-the-top innuendo coupled with their deranged characters was a little too contrived, especially in a niche-show like this Burlesque.

I always look forward to the zany characters which the group from Schlock Magazine, the online genre fiction blog-­magazine, creates each year and once again they did not disappoint.

In Gorno!, a send up of the very particular type of porn sub-fiction featuring gore and extreme S&M, Teodor Reljic played a transvestite psycho-analyst (pun intended) with a penchant for women’s underwear, who finds his clients’ odd relationship and sex life increasingly stimulating as they divulge their problems.

Pete Farrugia played a selfish Sheik with a crocodile fetish, while the very talented Bettina Borg Cardona played Svet-lana Hornykova, his aggrieved Russian wife.

Farrugia was an oil tycoon and part-time dictator with an odd problem – think Gaddafi meets Ace Ventura Sex Detective, while Borg Cardona was Miss Communist Block Tango – Eastern Euro-trash with a heart.

This sketch was comic gold and bagged many laughs from the enthusiastic audience, setting the pace for Steffi Thake and Joe Depasquale in Blood Red Riding Hood, where Thake’s psychopathic tendencies drove the crazy Riding Hood to attempt to kill her master, Boris.

It became a chase scene à la Hanna Barbera cartoon-style and their impeccable timing made it all the more fun to watch.

Two dances also gave this deranged cabaret a different dimension and Staying Alive, performed by Michaela Dimech, Roxanne Buttigieg and Jessica Azzopardi, to Lynne Salamone Reynaud’s choreography was monstrously entertaining, so to speak.

Thanks to Farrugia’s reprisal of a hilarious character from last year, Mami, an outspoken lesbian black woman, the audience got a taste of her fantasy in the dance Dreams of Arabia a dance of the seven veils by Chellcy Reitsma, Joanne Mallia and Samantha Mallia who all upped the ante for showmanship and gave an exotic and colourful performance.

Yannik Massa’s final intervention as The Moral Brigade poked fun at the local censorship issue in a very graphic way with fake buttocks hidden beneath his blazer flaps.

Director Nicole Cuschieri did quite well in pulling the whole piece together and all in all this monster show was a wacky whirlwind of satire and light-hearted comedy whose Gaga-esque style would have made mother monster herself proud.

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