A vanguard of wonderfully terrible entertainment

Memphis Mae performing strip tease in Wonderfully Terrible Things at The Vanguard. Image: Rita Bratovich

Wonderfully Terrible Things is a burlesque variety show with acts curated to excite your senses and prick your sensibilities. Arts editor Rita Bratovich, went to The Vanguard, Newtown on on 12 June to experience this den of indiscretion. 

The Vanguard is one of Newtown’s most beloved venues and a stalwart among Sydney entertainment establishments. With street-cred chic and unpretentious charm, this vintage one and a half level theatre-restaurant plays host to everything from tribute bands to comedy to burlesque. The saloon ambience is the perfect setting for a show like Wonderfully Terrible Things: a stylish mix of finesse and dirty hot mess. 

Having been treated to dinner, I was masticating a mouthful of panko pork cutlet when the curtains drew unceremoniously for the first act: a comedy sketch in which Shakespeare, a drunken yob, dictates his uninspired ideas to his scribe who subtly transforms them into literary gold. Cute and witty. 

MC Halloway Jones makes a much more robust entrance, with black-tape crosses on her nipples, black lace slacks and gown, and unbridled exuberance. She’s what an MC should be – loud, funny, sexy and utterly foul-mouthed. 

Things heat up with Memphis Mae, esteemed burlesque queen, who de-clads her shapely body in a slow, cheeky tease. She returns later in a glittery gown and hat, accompanied by three men in waiter outfits. Having divested herself artistically, Memphis Mae then reveals a penchant for the higher arts by single-handedly playing Beethoven … on a row of dildos. 

Missy on aerial ring, Wonderfully Terrible Things, June 12, 2021, The Vanguard. Image: Rita Bratovich.

Missy, an acrobat with admirable strength and poise, does everything with a wooden chair except sit on it. She later comes out again, untethering the suspended ring that’s hanging in front of the stage and executing even more incredible manoeuvres.

Thankfully, I had finished my meal and consumed a glass of wine by the time Nellie Collins aka Finhead came on.  A menacing looking figure in long black leather coat, his was the kind of performance that tightened your stomach muscles. With a rather large dagger in his mouth (biting on the handle-end!) he then balanced a rather large sword on it, tip to tip, and, upping the ante, he then stood on a rola-bola (a cylinder on its side with a board on top) and teetered. 

Not good enough? 

For his second appearance he ate lots of fire, held his body weight on one arm while hovering over a bed of nine-inch nails, then lay down on said bed of nails while balancing a long-handled flaming candelabra on his chin. 

Nellie Collins (Finhead), Wonderfully Terrible Things, June 12, 2021, The Vanguard. Image: Rita Bratovich.

Also playing with fire was the sizzling Kirra Rcs who followed that up with a delightful party trick: she threaded a long flexible tube through a nostril and back out through her mouth, put one end in a glass of wine, and invited MC Halloway to drink from the other end. 

Using her pharynx in a more traditional way, Miss Anthropic regaled us with her voice, singing first a song written by Christine Ibrahim, then ‘It’s Raining Men’ as a finale. 

Alas, the show’s creator, aerialist/singer/temptress Christine Ibrahim, had been seconded to another gig in another state. Her absence was felt but it didn’t mar the show at all.

Fabulous fun and a terrific vibe. Keep an eye out for the next performance in July. 

Visit www.wonderfullyterriblethings.com for future shows, bookings and more info.

See our recent interview with Wonderfully Terrible Things creator Christine Ibrahim here: https://sydneysentinel.com.au/2021/04/christine-ibrahim-flies-her-freak-flag/.

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