The Freak and the Showgirl
Priceless London Wonderground Spiegel Tent
On 13 September 2012
Review by Howard Loxton
The London premiere of Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz’s cabaret-style entertainment played to a packed house. A couple of weeks ago Mat told us there were only 15 seats sold but a long queue had to waiting for the doors to open.
They were a largely young crowd, for this is no show for stick-in-the-muds. Julie has won Miss Coney Island and Miss Exotic World as well as a bevy of artistic awards and being an actress and director. Mat seems to have done everything from acting and presenting the BBC Culture Show to chairing conferences and drumming: you probably saw him guesting with Coldplay at the Paralympics closing ceremony.
They met when he was presenting his Seal Boy act on Coney Island and she was there doing burlesque—and now they are married. Perhaps that’s just as well with the things they get up to. Acocstrip Wow! is not for the prudish but throw away inhibitions and they’ll give you a good time.
There is nothing coyly risqué about this full-frontal comic couple. The world is going to end this December some teleoterrestrial pundits have told them and they want to make sure that we make the most of what time we have left, so as well as some excellent vocals from Mat and a dash of political reference to terrorists, police and politicians we get a serious explanation of Mat’s phocomelia, the condition which left him with foreshortened arms and thumbless, flipper-like hands, the result of his mum taking thalidomide. It had some good results he tells us; it cured his mum’s morning sickness.
There is a look at freak history too. Those 1930s freak show performers and exhibits could earn a fortune. Would you rather sit at home in a back room never seeing anyone they way those differently formed used to do or get paid thousands for letting people gawp at you and have a great time with show people? Mat knows what his choice would have been—though he wishes this show was bringing in the money that theirs did!.
Did I say serious? Well it is, though with Mat and Julie you are usually laughing at the same time. Julie presents a whole series of clever and funny stripteases—and Mat’s not to be outdone. She’s wearing tassels; he finds something else to twirl. There is a totally tasteless and hilariously funny feminine response to those guys doing penis puppetry, in this case complete with Rasta dreadlocks. There is a number with prosthetic hands and one where Julie provides Mat with hands to play his ukulele and do some conjuring.
Under terrorist attack, some audience hostages get involved in a butt wiggling display and the whole things ends up with naked bodies skidding across a beer-flooded stage. I know, it sounds awful but it is riotously. liberating funny. I can’t remember when I last laughed so much.
The audience was enjoying it so much the show lasted much long than its scheduled 70 minutes. This was just a one nighter but look out for their next performance.