No feathers, sequins or boas

Posted on September 20, 2016 by Basement

Our blogger Jonty had a chat to Jessie Cassin, who’s upcoming alt-cabaret Suits is on from the 27 Sep – 1 Oct as part of our collaboration with the Auckland Live International Cabaret Festival.

What can we expect from the show?

I didn’t set out to have a message other than for people to have fun, and walk out feeling a little bit better about themselves. I’d rather have a smaller audience of thrill seekers that were like ’what was that? or ‘oh my God, I loved that’ than lots of people to walk out and say ‘Oh, that was nice’. So, expect to be thrilled and just have fun!

Were there any particular experiences that inspired the show?

I’d seen a lot of cabaret shows in Auckland over the years and so many of them had this preservationist attitude towards cabaret, where you would go and watch a babe dressed in a corset with a feather boa singing songs about diamonds. I was just really disenchanted with seeing the same female stereotype and so that got me thinking about what I’d like to see shaken up in cabaret. Also, in the theatre world, it’s usually the norm to see a female leading lady backed by predominantly male musicians. I’m not saying the gender gap is intentional, more just pointing out that it exists, so that motivated me to create an all female ensemble.

In terms of the stories and song choices, I was newly single and had a lot of sex stories, confessions, feminist rants I’d written about in my diary and so I just thought why not combine all of these things into one fabulous mess! I didn’t think it was plausible until I starting watching Alt- cabaret performers like Lady Rizo, Meow Meow, and Mx Justin Vivian bond, they helped me understand the kind of new direction I wanted to go in.

What were some of the key musical inspirations?

Punk, 80′s power ballads and rap.

What has been the most difficult part of the production?

On an international scale, there are the women like Mx Justin Vivian bond and Lady Rizo who perform in spaces like Joe’s Pub and Our Hit parade that attract a real mixed audience. It’s a great environment to perform in on a regular basis because they can really hone in on their craft. In terms of attracting an audience, the fact that they’re challenging stereotypes is celebrated and they often have a cult following so attracting an audience when it goes to theatre isn’t a problem.

In Auckland, there’s not really a space like Joe’s Pub, or a bar where a performer like me can do an Alt- cabaret gig on a regular basis, so when I do a show, it goes straight to the theatre! We’re really grateful that the Basement has the space for our project, and that they’re so supportive of all types of theatre, but Cabaret is quite different to a play or musical in that it needs a regular bar or small venue with a crowd to thrive and grow in.

What do you love about cabaret?

It’s unconventional. You can get away with almost anything and you can drink on the job! I also love that cabaret attracts a mixed audience and that it celebrates diversity.

Suits is on from the 27 Sep – 1 October in our Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here. More of jonty’s writing can be found on his blog.