The ever-popular annual Brisbane Festival is just around the corner.
Launching on September 8, it runs over three weeks, marking the end of winter and culminating in the classic SunSuper RiverFire.
The Festival showcases a range of local, national and international performances across various production styles, not only to counter the old stereotype of an arts-starved Queensland, but indeed, rivalling Sydney and Melbourne and cementing Brisbane’s more recent reputation for its thriving arts scene.
Given the breadth and scope of the high-quality line-up this year, one would even be forgiven for suspecting over-compensation. Indeed, for a queer audience in particular, the Events Guide reads as a buffet of representation.
Australian legend of the stage and camp icon Rhonda Burchmore headlines her own cabaret show, BANG! BANG! at the Spiegeltent.
Described as “grungy German cabaret” with “explosions of confetti, bubbles and bullwhips,” this show seems guaranteed to titillate with manly eye-candy as much as entertain with Burchmore’s vocals and dance moves.
Featuring Rob Mills in something of a mystery role, it appears that he may be Burchmore’s willing slave, leading a troupe of muscled Adonises in choral song-and-dance routines.
Burchmore herself has commented on the “glorious specimens of men” she’ll be performing alongside, as she “ties up or chains [Mills] to a chair while [she does] a Miley Cyrus [song].”
The immense kinky pleasure and anticipation evoked at the thought of seeing Rob Mills in chains is reason enough to buy a ticket.
Beyond the evoked aesthetic and decadent permissiveness of a frenetic Berlin underground club scene (meaning that there will hopefully be either flesh on display or at least barely concealed behind a top hat and a pair of suspenders), Burchmore also promises an energetic vocal turn.
A live band will accompany mash-ups and new arrangements of iconic pop classics from Tina Turner to Pete Burns, Cher to Amy Winehouse, and Tom Jones to Lionel Richie and Shirley Bassey.
Couple this with her legendary dancing pins, and an evening of saucy delight based on both musical talent and chiselled abs awaits.
BANG! BANG! opens on 18 September and runs for less than a week, so be sure to grab a ticket for Burchmore’s voice and talent as well as to see Millsy in a fetish position.
For those seeking cabaret-style thrills beyond titillation and a more overt queer-centric adventure from their local Arts scene, Heaps Gay Trash Palace at the Tivoli provides the ideal joyful and hardcore party atmosphere.
As event organiser Kat Dopper explains, “the space will come alive with colour, performers and artists for the night” in a “big, fat celebration a year on from the plebishite with a trash wedding party”.
Described as the vibe of “your great auntie’s wedding”, the riotous one-night only event on 8 September will comprise an ‘80s themed wedding inside (who doesn’t love that nostalgia?), and a block party in the car park.
A first for Brisbane, Heaps Gay hosts a range of local queer performers, including the hilariously satirical Architects of Sound, and our own local royalty, the Queen of all Drag Queens, Tina Bikki, among other performers including Sezzo Snot, Death Club and Jesswar.
South African musician Fortune Shumba will be on hand to provide electro pop-beats, as well as Sydney band The Magda Szubanskis travelling in for the occasion.
Melbourne’s drag/dance/cabaret/circus troupe YUMMY will also take an evening off from their own Festival show at La Boite to join the revelry and perform.
As Kat puts it, “the lineup is jampacked to the rim with all killer, no filler”. The Brisbane Festival’s active support and showcasing of queer artists allows a safe space for community as well as welcoming the mainstream to share in the joy and appreciate and recognise our local queer talent.
More surprises beyond the released line-up list have been promised, so clear your diary because this one-off event will be the party of the decade.
If more traditional straight plays are your thing (in format, if not content!), then the Brisbane Festival has your queer heart covered.
Fag/Stag explores the bromantic friendship between gay and straight besties Jimmy and Corgan respectively as they approach their 30s and contemplate their love lives and adult choices.
An under-represented relationship dynamic, and described as a “rare gem” by the Adelaide Theatre Guide, Fag/Stag promises a scrutinising but often hilarious gaze at contemporary masculinity.
Queerness isn’t limited to only gay male experience at the Festival, though, as Romeo is Not the Only Fruit reimagines Shakespeare’s classic as a musical with two star-crossed lesbians, Juliet and Darcy, stepping into the shoes of the iconically doomed romantic figures.
Called ‘irrevent’ and a ‘laugh-out-loud’ musical, Romeo is Not the Only Fruit evidently turns the Shakesperean tragedy on its head in more ways than one, and is definitely worth discovering just how for yourself.
If your vibrant party atmosphere needs haven’t yet been sated though, look no further than Betty Grumble, who invites you to ‘witness her ecosexually charged flesh riot ritual of dancing dissent, disco, and deep push back-ery, where pleasure is a radical act and the body a bloody love letter’.
Bio-Queen doesn’t quite adequately describe performer Emma Maye Gibson, whose alter-ego Betty is self-described as ‘Surreal Showgirl, Obscene Beauty Queen and Sex Clown’. Betty’s drag-cabaret cross examines the limitations and violations placed on the female body, and exposes the painted construction of societal impositions on both femininity and masculinity.
Her extreme act ironically peels away embedded social conceptions, and it’s little wonder that she’s performed across the world, from the underground Australian queer scene to the Sydney Opera House, to winning an Edinburgh Festival Award in 2016.
When asked whether she’s a man or a woman, Grumble has the perfect response – “yes”, which encapsulates her style both raucous and emotionally revealing.
If revealing feminism appeals, Ode to Man by Emma Mary Hall and Prue Clark is the result of asking 100 men over 2 years what being “a real man” means.
In an evening told across 15 “chapters”, Ode to Man will consider the contemporary state of maleness from the perspective of women who ‘dare to dream to have it all’, and how this age-old gender-tension is expressed and enacted in contemporary society.
Exploring similar themes in a uniquely fresh form is local puppeteer Anna Straker’s Umami Mermaids. As a frequent collaborator with and contributor to Dead Puppet’s Society, Mermaids is one of Straker’s first solo works.
Her deeply personal experiences of patriarchal oppression within her professional life are re-imagined in the form of three gothic-esque fairy tales, a throwback to Straker’s German heritage.
This fantastical lens on topical themes as a cathartic personal work promises fierce originality, not to mention Straker’s crafts(wo)manship in designing and creating the striking puppets herself.
On the international front, Irish hit Hamnet will enjoys an Australian debut exclusive to Brisbane.
A bold one-man (or one-boy) show combined with live video-streaming, Hamnet is a vehicle for a courageous and talented 11-year-old to tell the story of Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son who died at that age.
One letter away from icon Hamlet, Hamnet explores the fragility of boyhood, the theme of absent fathers, and the pressurising legacy of being the child of a legend – forgotten by history but merely a single letter away from being forever remembered.
UK comic David Baddiel of “Baddiel & Skinner” fame crosses the globe for his stand-up show My Family: Not the Sitcom, direct from London’s West End.
Also enjoying an Australian run is British poet Alice Oswald’s Memorial, a re-telling of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ eulogising the 215 names soldiers killed in the epic.
A vehicle for Australian powerhouse Helen Morse, Memorial boasts a community chorus 215-strong, haunting the stage in a truly unique theatrical experience.
From drag cabaret to feminist puppeteer, a bio-queen’s extreme truth to an 11-year-old boy’s 400-years dead, a British comic to a Shakespearean lesbian musical and with multiple riotous parties in between, Brisbane Festival truly offers the best in Queensland talent and celebratory joy.
Whatever your taste, there is an Arts event or five just for you, so check the guide and grab your tickets, as the Festival runs for a short 3 weeks only.
Brisbane Festival runs from 8 Sep to 29 Sep. An event guide and tickets for all the events can be found at the Brisbane Festival’s website.