Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Exotic Hypnotica," Jazida Productions at Belco Arts. Reviewed by Samara Purnell


"Exotic Hypnotica," photo by Tobias Price.

WHAT makes someone or something “exotic”? That is the premise of Canberra Burlesque performer Jazida’s new show. 

With an arts grant and the assistance of Finucane and Smith, Jazida presents “Exotic Hypnotica”.

 Jazida uses the lure of a fictional hypnosis clinic to explore aspects of her identity, personna and the definition of “exotic” to hang burlesque acts on. 

 Awash with beautiful costumes, swirling set designs, sound and colour, the show sees Jazida presenting a list of things she did and did not choose for herself.

Photos by Tobias Price.

 “Exotic Hypnotica” begins with a version of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” as Jazida flirts with fire…The large letters on stage spelling “EXOTIC” are rearranged in the background, by a troupe of fan dancers, to spell “TOXIC” but Jazida is skilled in maintaining an audience’s attention so it’s not until after the dance that this rearranging becomes evident.

In a black and white catsuit with swirling patterns, Jazida performs an aerial hoop routine. Both this and the fire routine looked tentative and lacked the conviction of her other routines and skills, but the overall ambience was enough to be drawn in. 

To see the thrashing of feathered fans (with coloured lights) in a piece where Jazida grapples with identity was a novelty, given the delicate way in which fans are usually used. 

Film projections enticing people to the clinic are presented like late-night infomercials - somewhere between a clairvoyance hotline, a wellness centre and a cult with an eyebrow-raising phone number, where genuine self-awareness and individuality is a convoluted guise for brainwashing participants into conformity. The small projections onto a cloth screen could have taken up more of the screen space. 

 The ensemble of fan dancers were both performers and stagecrew. In a couple of the routines, they lacked synchronicity, conviction and facial expressiveness, even if intended to be the brainwashed masses from the clinic. More work as a group would likely improve this aspect. 

 A cute routine with piles of boxes containing various sounds cleverly made way into a set for Jazida to skilfully reapply her make-up, but this would have worked better as a token gesture or short interlude, with the rest of her make-up to be reapplied during the interval.

Intricate black netted bodysuits, red and black corsets, a bustle-style costume for an appealing silhouetted dance with versions of herself and corsets made by Rockstars and Royalty were all of beautiful quality and visually stunning. 

The “Glamourflage” number was a stand-out. Reminiscent of Beyonce’s “Girls” and a Greek goddess, Jazida was in her element with this routine and striking costume, doing what she does best, in a piece about attempting to “assimilate into society”. This production is about more than just titillation, so the stripping and nudity elements here are not the main focus.

The set is fun, full and quirky. A lot of props are used and it gets a bit messy at times with some clunky transitions. Jazida takes any glitches, such as a brief malfunction with the mic, in her stride.

Even when she is worked-up, intense, resentful, in her characterisations, Jazida remains personable and keeps the audience onside. 

In “Exotic Hypnotica” Jazida utilises many styles of burlesque and performance including a rap number and a song about her name and traits. 

Original music and remixes were fun and well done but the sound design needs editing and balance - some of the live lyrics were lost in the hectic mash-up soundscape, especially when a fraction out of sync.

The colourful “pride” finale “I choose me” was amateurish, with the ensemble needing a tighter structure and choreography, though it was a happy, lively and upbeat note to finish on. It detracts from the mystique of a professional performance if dancers appear, still costumed, in the foyer after the show. 

“Exotic Hypnotica” is a visually sumptuous, diverse, energetic, primarily one-woman show, that would benefit from tighter direction. Presenting an enjoyable, entertaining and immersive show, Jazida is a treat for the senses. No doubt she will hypnotise the South Australians at the Adelaide fringe festival, where she will next perform this show.