Inventive Jazida brings the crowd to its feet

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Artemis Seven (Morgan HeathWilliams) with Rachel Reid as Jazida.

Burlesque / “Catch Jazida”, The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, January 15-19. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

“CATCH Jazida” is an imaginative attempt to devise a full-length showcase for Canberra burlesque artist Rachel Reid’s skills that doesn’t require a large supporting cast.

Rachel, who performs professionally as Jazida, has the distinction of being the first Government-funded burlesque performer to have been awarded grant funding by the ACT Government to develop her show.

Unusual but not surprising, given that Jazida has already received international recognition, having performed at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2018. She was a featured artist for the 2019 Australian Burlesque Festival and the representative Australian headliner for the Perth International Burlesque Festival.

An obviously accomplished burlesque performer, Rachel’s toolbox includes a repertoire of stylish routines, a wardrobe of spectacular costumes and wigs, and in addition to her dancing, singing and acting skills, she’s a dab hand at conjuring and gymnastics. Her makeup is a work of art in itself.

However, as is the tradition with burlesque, each of her routines is a complete performance in itself, and her intricate costumes require more time to get into than to get out of. 

Rachel Reid.

The concept for “Catch Jazida” is a tongue-in-cheek parody following a film noir-style narrative, in which Jazida portrays a thief on the loose who’s been accused of stealing a large sum of money.

She’s pursued throughout by a private detective (Morgan HeathWilliams, who works professionally as Artemis Seven), who provides an amusing linking narration between routines, clears away strewn costume components, and at the end of the show performs a gymnastic duet with Jazida, leading to the final denouement.

Along the way, Jazida performs a series of striking striptease routines, among them, a spectacular fan-dance with feather fans decorated with LED lights, a Mae West routine in which she riffs on about various alcoholic drinks, a circus routine, and most memorably, a routine involving dangerous-looking shiny metal blades.

However, as inventive as the various routines are, each has its own inevitable conclusion, and seen in succession, tend to become repetitive. As well, the relationship between the routines, the narration and filmed sequences is often puzzling, which together with the makeshift setting, missed sound and lighting cues, and untidy exits and entrances, stamps “Catch Jazida” with the look of a work in progress which would benefit from the services of an experienced director. 

Nevertheless it should be noted that the supportive first-night audience found almost every utterance cause for loud guffaws and rewarded the performance with a standing ovation.

Following its short Canberra season, “Catch Jazida” is already booked for seasons in Adelaide and Perth, so don’t miss this opportunity to “Catch Jazida”. 

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