Christine Ibrahim flies her freak flag

Christine Ibrahim in Wonderfully Terrible Things. Photo: Tom Wilkinson/supplied.

Wonderfully Terrible Things may sound like a quirky, Dahl-esque children’s book, but this is strictly an adult’s playground, as creator Christine Ibrahim explains to the Sentinel. By Rita Bratovich.

“I wanted to create something where we could celebrate the weird and wonderful performers that we have in Sydney,” says Christine Ibrahim, describing how she came to formulate her genre-defying show.

A mix of circus, cabaret, burlesque, erotica, and perhaps even a dash of Grand Guignol, Wonderfully Terrible Things tries to provide a platform for the many talented but stage-less alternative theatre artists in this city. The name comes from a song with the same title which appeared on an EP Ibrahim released in 2015. 

Christine Ibrahim – pianist and songstress. Photo: supplied.

“I didn’t know it was a show at the time – it was more of a concept – but then it became more and more apparent to me that it is a show, and it’s the brand of the show,” Ibrahim explains. 

The “terrible” in the title does not refer to awful or frightening things but rather naughty, rebellious, transgressive things, behaviour or people. 

“I guess it’s celebrating our vices a little bit. There definitely is a debaucherous thread to the show,” says Ibrahim.

“During the show I actually encourage audience members to text me wonderfully terrible things that they have done … perhaps they’re on a wonderfully terrible Tinder date or something like that. Some of the things that come through the Instagram I don’t repeat on stage because there’s some wild ones, but there’s also just such a lot of freedom and self expression that comes from that as well.”

All this is done with the utmost respect and often with a touch of humour. Ibrahim is big on promoting inclusivity and being allowed to “let your freak flag fly”.

The show includes a core cast of performers and a roster of various guest artists. 

Among the key performers is Kirra who does an act called ‘Blockhead’. 

“So she nails a nail into her nose and then sets it on fire, and then puts a tube through her other nostril and it comes out her mouth – then I drink wine from the bottom of the straw,” explains Ibrahim. 

The enigmatic Kirra in Wonderfully Terrible Things. Photo: supplied.

Other artists include a performer who does tricks while suspended on a bed of nails; someone who spins LED lit hoops; an aerialist on straps; a mysterious figure in full latex costume replete with spikes and en pointe. That’s just a tasting plate. 

“What I’m definitely trying to give a platform to is that darker, less pretty aspect of expressing sexuality for men and women. So, not having to be pretty in feathers if you’re a girl and not having to be butch and masculine if you’re a guy,” says Ibrahim. 

In choosing performers, Ibrahim looks for great skills, authentic presentation, a bit of sexiness and a bit of noir. The show itself was its origins in the shadows of society. 

LED lit spinning hoops in Wonderfully Terrible Things. Photo: supplied.

Ibrahim left home at 17 and, while studying for a Bachelor of Music, supported herself by waitressing in strip clubs. Here, she met a lot of quite interesting, perhaps dubious, characters.

“It was strange that I had a lot of support in that scene and it actually helped me get through university; it helped me lean into that creative side. And people who I think [other] people would think of as quite ‘low’ actually helped create the very beginnings of this show.”

Ibrahim’s own quiver includes proficiency on piano; music composition; extraordinary vocals in various styles; and aerialism. Her shows combine all of these – and some. 

She is working on a new act which will take the rest of the year to perfect. It involves producing a reduced, soundscape version of ‘Ave Maria’ which she will sing while performing aerial manoeuvres in a suitably ethereal aesthetic. 

A high-heeled aerialist in Wonderfully Terrible Things. Photo: supplied.

Wonderfully Terrible Things will next be presenting a bon bon box of wonderfully terrible things at The Vanguard on Saturday, 12 June. 

For those who want more, Ibrahim presents a late show called Bric-a-Brac, following Wonderfully Terrible Things

Bric-a-Brac is more of an open mic, vaudeville-style, vehicle for raw new talent. It’s for newcomers or established artists with new, untested material, and acts range across comedy, singer-songwriter, burlesque, theatre – almost anything.   

“You don’t know what you’re going to get until you bite into it,” says Ibrahim. 

So true. 

Wonderfully Terrible Things will play The Vanguard, 42 King Street, Newtown at 6pm Saturday, 12 June, 2021. General admission $56, dinner and show $91.70. Tickets available from https://moshtix.com.au/v2/event/wonderfully-terrible-things/127300.

Bric-a-Brac will be held at The Vanguard, 42 King Street, Newtown from 10pm Saturday, 12 June, 2021. General admission $17.95. Tickets available from https://moshtix.com.au/v2/event/bric-a-brac/127366.

For more info on Christine Ibrahim and Wonderfully Terrible Things, visit www.wonderfullyterriblethings.com.

Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.