Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mum's In - Stories from Razorhurst



Brand X Productions in Association with The Kings Cross Hotel presents MUM'S IN - STORIES FROM RAZORHURST by Vashti Hughes, Level 5 at The Kings Cross Hotel.

On arriving at the recently re-furbished Kings Cross Hotel and getting to the elevators on the ground floor, one is greeted by two of Mum's hatted pimps who escort you up to level 5, where another capped crony check's you out, gives you a red symbol of a razor gash on the palm of your hand as the ID for entry, and advises that  if one wants a drink while waiting, "Get it", over there at the bar. When the hoodlum cockatoo's  make it is clear that Mum is in, us customers are escorted by her handsome heavies, via some back stairs, to a small but atmospherically decorated cabaret room.It feels good.

Some of us have come dressed in 'period' clothing,it adds to the expectancy, and we are seated around tables close to a small platform stage on a mixture of chair types of varying comfortability .We order our drink or drinks - a menu and pencil supplied to accommodate the grog of our choice to be in ready supply. Ross Johnston, the composer and piano player for the show is stationed by his instrument and The Director, James Winter, doubling as technician, sits stooled by the lighting dimmers.

A woman in a simple contemporary black, figure- close dress in ordinary flat shoes walks from a curtained side-room and stands centre on the red curtained draped platform. This is Vashti Hughes. I recognise her from past encounters (SIX QUICK CHICKS). But it is Ms Hughes only momentarily, for once the lights are dimmed and stage focused, a totally possessed virago of creative energy transforms without any other theatrical assistance, in front of your eyes, into the impersonation of character and narrative of five notorious and uncompromising villains, breathlessly.

Described in the programme as a "one-woman performance piece lifts the veil on the Razor Gang era in Sydney during the 1930's, where sly grog, prostitution, cocaine and extortion were the commodities of the East Sydney underground …this dark comedy cabaret features the notorious gangster characters of Kate Leigh, Tilly Devine, Frank Green, Nellie Cameron and Guido Calletti".

The recent television series UNDERBELLY RAZOR, based on Larry Writer's 2001book, RAZOR, has brought these characters to us on the little screen, but not in the, frankly frighteningly realistic mode of Ms Hughes. Ms Hughes grabs your attention and takes hold of your collar and shakes and shakes you, glaring at you with psychopathic wide eyes and never lets go, with even the blink of an eye to release the tension.

This performance by Vashti Hughes is what I believe all good acting is: "Possession". There is no let off for the audience, one is simply in the presence of these five ruthless people, fuelled dangerously by cocaine and alcohol, wide eyed with  the dare for you not to look. They all, including the deceased Mr Calletti, reminisce and dream. This is a spectacular performance by Ms Hughes. I have seen her work before but this is IT. Something really special. There is a creative identification with this material by this artist, that thrills at the madness of the characters and all their ugliness and energy for destruction.

This work is also written by Ms Hughes and there is the veracity of raw street language and sexual abreactions that are not for the timid to witness. Prudes stay away from MUM'S place. Best you find she is not in. Full on. Full throttled. Not even the salacious, prurient producers, writers of the television series have gone to this level of realism. With no costume or make up changes Ms Hughes embodies all of these people that the photographs of the period reveal. No commercial art direction here, just deeply imagined worlds, by Ms Hughes, that permits us to endow transformations to occur in front of our very eyes.

There are some songs with chorus for all of us to join in on.There are jokes and there are good stories and insight to these souls of another era.There is a bar service. There is a police 'raid' and one is hustled by Mum's pimps to the back stairs once again and bundled out of Mum's place.

Just how much has changed to the human experience, and the character of the environment of Kings Cross, one may ask as you step out onto the Kings Cross Streets, and avoid the glare of some of the passing parade of the people traffic about you. You might grab a cab or you might be thrilled to find out more....

Well worth catching. A Dark Comedy Cabaret of a completely unexpected kind.

(www.mumsin.com.au for tickets).

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