Saturday 4 January 2020

She's Layered - Cabaret Review

What: She's Layered
When: 3 - 4 January 2020
Where: Upstairs, The Butterfly Club
Created and performed by: Mia Romero
Mia Romero
Melbourne is hot and smokey all over, but The Butterfly Club is even hotter and smokier this weekend. Mia Romero heats up these summer nights with her one woman Vaudeville show, She's Layered.

I suspect Romero is what they call a triple threat. She can most certainly act, and hella yeah she can sing! It looks like she can dance too, with excellent extension and poise although it is hard to tell on the tiny Butterfly Club stage.

Romero gives us a gift to kick of the new year with a show which celebrates what it is to be a woman. This is not a ball busting feminist show (although her kitten heel stilettos do hover very close to the crotch...). It is also not a vampish submission to the patriarchy (although, if it feels good, do it!). Instead, She's Layered is the perfect theatrical representation of what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

We are funny, we are sexy, we are horny, we are scared, we are beautiful and yet we are never really enough - oh yes, and we are always the ones saying "sorry". At one point Romero issues us a challenge, and I now issue it to you. Go for one with without ever thinking 'the woman is to blame'. Can you do it? It'll be tough, but perhaps it really is time to man up...

I am calling this She's Layered Vaudeville rather than cabaret because it is something of a hybrid. Yes there is song and a lot of dance - perhaps too much dance in a venue which cannot let the art form shine - but there is mime, working with mannequins (dolls), sketch comedy, and script work. The show ranges from authenticity through to parody and like a song cycle, the thing which connects them all is a celebration of womanhood, rather than a dramatic narrative.

What is impressive is Romero does all the acts herself and yet you do feel like there is a curtain between them, and a bevy of talent with different skills coming out each time. In fact, She's Layered has something of an old world feel with the gentleness of old school sitting easily side by side with racy numbers from Rihanna and Britney Spears (do not be afraid of this - it is done with heart and sympathy and with an edge of 'who is the arbiter of pretty'? going on).

In between the sexy cobra dance, the joyous wedding ballet, and the showgirl flounces Romero's point is if it feels good do it, and if it doesn't feel good, don't do it. Oh, and by the way, men can take some responsibility for birth control too in case you weren't aware...

In Romero's world a woman can have it all - within the boundaries constructed by the patriarchy. Are you really a nag if you are married? Are you a skank if you are single? Are you a bitch if you are female? You can be, or you can not be. Ignore the labels and just do you. Use your "evagination" and see where that leads rather than listening to how others think you should see yourself and your life.

For me, the highlight of She's Layered was Romero singing 'Diamonds In The Sky'. I was expecting typical musical theatre vocals but I was swept away by the magic of Romeros voice. I was literally transported out of The Butterfly Club and into the stratosphere which is where only the rare brilliant singers can take you. More singing and less dancing would have really made my night.

I found myself (and the row of women behind me) laughing all the way through but I admit the rest of the audience seemed dead. They were mostly men, though, and perhaps still suffering from a post New Year hangover.

Maybe She's Layered is one for the girls on the way out to a clubbing good time in the city tonight? If the guys don't get it though, it is their loss.

3.5 Stars

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