Brighton Fringe 2019

Bondage Queen Sings the Hits

Jo Marsh, SweetVenues

Genre: Burlesque, Cabaret, Contemporary, Solo Show, Theatre

Venue: Sweetwerks 2, 15-17 Middle Street, Brighton

Festival:


Low Down

Marsh and the SV team ricochet lights music and action. Til May 26th.

Review

 

What is it about Perth? People from that genteel-seeming city seem intent on living it down, and blast out more raunch and wrench than the south-east territories combined.

 

Well that’s peaking from experience as it were – and you don’t come out of this show a Perth virgin either. ‘Like a Virgin’? Now you’re getting warmer. Jo Marsh’s Bondage Queen Sings the Hits is a hymn of feist and feasting, fit for Brighton though it’s set to tour as far as Edinburgh.

 

Marsh points out earth-shattering truths: ‘Bondage Queen’, whiplashing her jokes – and 1980s rock, perfect combo. Marsh mightn’t have been yet that active in the 1980s but she hit the hits at puberty and never looked back.

 

In fact there’s a personal journey for Marsh, including a near-life-changing car-crash that left surgeons telling her she’d be back in a wheelchair at 40. Well, whisper it, at 43 – we get it. We don’t get much more than that but it’s enough: Marsh as JoJo Bellini flings herself about, first in a total bondage gear that nearly asphyxiates her – and she’s not into that, even when an audience member can’t get her headgear off; then with high-energy narrative singing – raucous, raw, smokily magnificent – before exploding at the end. And the audience are recruited, yes madam.

 

Marsh and the SV team ricochet lights music and action. There’s lit-up lips in fuchsia neon smacked all over the blackout of SV2. Why not unite her twin passions, BDSM shared with her husband and 80s hits? And her tales of sex, Troilism and Cressida sandwiches maybe.

 

The start, before Madonna even, is a burlesque recension of ‘Bondage Queen’, the words ABBA didn’t quite have the guts to use. No matter, Marsh has raided what they really meant, and rhymes are delicious. You won’t believe what she works out to loaves and fishes either. The jokes and puns explode, a trickle of autobiography and indeed comments on bondage and other BDSM forms – and extremes – fly by. And Freddie Mercury does too. As he does.

 

There’s more audience participation too: ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ literally invites two audience members to do just that, though it’s popcorn which gets…. all over.

 

So during this Marsh peels down her clothes, that hoop for instance, pouring a bright cerise sou’wester over her as she takes off the PVC to reveal another final burgundy layer. But she’s also vulnerable, defiant and ultimately sharing a story of triumph over considerable trauma.

 

Marsh doesn’t choose to go that far personally, and indeed even here on high octane cheer she’s pushing herself beyond the physical boundaries most would care to go. ‘Girls with Big Bums’ is something we all have to wave to, as it were, and there’s no escape. It’s the mental boundaries, the emotions behind, I’d love to see explored in another show.

 

Still the post-care package BDSM operates on (a cuddle and tea), ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is something that pushes Marsh to jaw-dropping extremes – even with everyone joining in, or because of that. It’s both exhilarating and not a little moving: not that Marsh wants us even to think of this, let alone dwell on it. If this territory appeals, the raw edge, honesty and hint of something as dark as Marsh’s colours is the show to head for.

Published