The Living Museum of Erotic Women

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Reviewed by Daniel Wilson

Imagine you are going to a play. The usher rips the ticket, you walk in and instead of finding yourself in a theatre, you are in a 1920s piano bar. You order a cocktail, next thing you know Marlene Dietrich (played by Etoile Marley) walks into the spotlight to welcome the patrons and sing a tune.

This was something new, something fresh. And as the night went on things would only get fresher.

The Living Museum of Erotic Women is an immersive theatrical experience celebrating erotic women throughout history. It’s an unforgettable evening. It’s theatre, it’s dance, it’s music, it’s costumes, it’s interactive, ambitious, bold, seductive, naked, and thought provoking.

The production takes place on a magical set, which jumps from one epoch and part of the world to another. It was designed by Tim Burgin and spans four floors for visitors to explore.

Visitors wander from one living exhibit to the next. The adventure begins before you know it, and you never know what awaits in the next room. Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sexy, and sometimes it’s confrontational.

The exhibits are dressed in beautiful costumes, designed by Laura Malia Pearse. One moment you are standing in front of three baroque English aristocratic women with wigs and all the trimmings, the next moment you are being led by a Mongolian princess. The costumes never failed to amaze.

After you have gotten used to the stunning women, the gorgeous set, and beautiful costumes, you start to wonder what this is all about.

The Living Museum of Erotic Women came about by a desire of Director Willow J Conway to explore, celebrate and research the many women in history who have been revered and exulted as a result of being considered an erotic women who brought change, pushed boundaries, caused scandal and bore names such as ‘whore’, ‘slut’ and ‘witch’.

On this particular night one of the women was Ching Shih (played by Zya Luna), who was a prominent pirate in 19th century China. One by one, visitors found themselves pleading with Ching to let them stay on the pirate ship. Those deemed of no use were executed.

Princess Marie Bonaparte (Anna Kennedy) was a French author and psychoanalyst, closely linked with Sigmund Freud. Her wealth contributed to the popularity of psychoanalysis, and enabled Freud’s escape from Nazi Germany.

Mata Hari (Bella De Jac) was a Frisian exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy and executed by firing squad in France under charges of espionage for Germany during World War I.

Valeria Messalina (Marissa Bennett) was the third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. It was claimed that she conspired against her husband and was executed when the plot was discovered.

Izumo-no-okuno (Bicky Lee), who was the originator of kabuki theatre, performed an intense dance number.

Ruan Lingyu (Roshelle Fong) was one of the most prominent Chinese film stars of the 1930s. Her suicide at the age of 24 led her to become an icon of Chinese cinema.

Lola Montez (Stephanie Osztreicher) performed her infamous erotic spider dance, perhaps the same she performed in 1855 at the Royal Theatre Melbourne.

Other highlights included Fleur Dean, who played Catherine the Great, and Rebecca Wemm, who played Joan of Arc. Jacquie Thomas gave us a 21st century version of a maypole dance. Victoria Mantynen was mesmerising as the Goddess Isis.

And that was just the first act. After the intermission the women were back to play a whole new set of museum exhibits.

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