Debauched aliens targeting a burlesque beauty. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as you will see if you venture into The MC Showroom to see They Came From Uranus. This is burlesque with a decided difference, insofar as it is adult puppetry in the form of a sci-fi cabaret. The staging is salacious and the costuming is nothing if not lavish and lascivious.
The story goes that a hypersexualised alien race on the planet Uranus has started “tuning in” to Earth. Its inhabitants gravitate (pun fully intended) to adult websites. They find themselves drawn to Candy Carcrashian, the star performer at Busty Barb’s Bourbon and Burlesque Bar. Two Uranians are shipped off to try to capture Miss Candy and bring her home as a sex slave.
But their radar is off and they take several wrong turns before one of them – having guzzled dozens of cocktails – makes their move … in disguise. The aliens’ journey is closely followed by a roving, on-the-spot reporter, Lucy van Stools. At the same time, the MC at Busty Barb’s continues to introduce the headline musical acts at the popular club.
They Came from Uranus is a polished, left of field offering, written by Neil Ray, Murray Raine and James Welsby. It sets out to shock, amuse and entertain and succeeds in doing so. The stars of the production are the bold and brassy Murray Raine (whose speaking voice fondly reminds me of the late, great Barry Humphries) and the Murrayonettes.
Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately taken by the lurid set, designed and constructed by Steve Coupe and dressed by Jo Foley. Luminescent alien figures with large heads appear both sides of an elegant, red curtained (think State Theatre at Arts Centre Melbourne, if you wish) lemonade stand. Into those alien heads, projections and shadow puppetry – the work of Johnny Balance – breathe life into the depraved tale.
Complete with a mighty retro to contemporary soundtrack (music is an integral part of the piece), much of the appeal is in the fabulous puppets and adept puppetry. Murray Raine constructed the marionettes and their audacious headdresses. It is his head, complete with lippy and large false eyelashes, that appears against a jet-black backdrop in the lemonade stand as the face of Busty Barb’s performers. And it is his black gloved hands that move the puppets and props.
Isaac Lumis and Tristan Seebohm are responsible for the oh so wonderful costuming, which – I dare say – would leave Anna Wintour gasping. It all comes together magnificently. It is clever and creative. In short, They Came From Uranus is heaps of fun for the broadminded. Directed by James Welsby and designed by Isaac Lumis, it is silly, saucy and sexy.
The fifty-minute, adults only show is followed by a quick stand-up routine from Murray Raine and finishes with a no expense spared (slight exaggeration) raffle. They Came From Uranus is on as part of Midsumma at The MC Showroom until January 27th. It will next make an appearance on March 9th at the ChillOut Festival in Hepburn Springs, before heading for The Royal Exchange in Newcastle from March 21st to 24th.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- David Strassman’s The Chocolate Diet (Athenaeum Theatre) – theatre review
- Avenue Q (BAT) – theatre review
- Oracle – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.