An interview with...
A creation from the mind of Anna a Melbourne based burlesque and drag performer.
From when you started to where you are now, what are you most proud of in your development as an artist?
Big question right off the bat! I seem to remember when I first starting doing burlesque in 2012, there were certain things I thought I needed to do for it to count as ‘real’ burlesque. I needed to have a corset, I needed to have a glitter lip, etcetera, etcetera. I absorbed things around me and convinced myself that I need to check certain boxes to prove that I was a worthwhile performer. I think any time I step outside of that, any time I’ve followed my own vision and moved further from things that would be expected of a burlesque or drag artist, I make myself proud. I have made acts that are fiercely political and angry, I’ve made glamorous works, abstract works, and acts that are just plain stupid, and I’m proud of them all. I’m also so proud of times when I know I’ve managed to hit a certain pressure point in my audience, gotten that cathartic scream of recognition, of joy, or anger.
When Ira becomes a billionaire sugar daddy who’re you going to keep as your sugar babies?
Aside from absolutely all of my performer friends who each need a full-time wage for their creative careers, I’d also like to adopt every single 16 year old queer baby who has come to our Rocky Horror movie experience and had a great time. They deserve all the love and support in the world.
Have you found a comfortable intersection between burlesque and drag as a performer, or as you’re becoming settled in your craft are you being drawn more towards one?
I don’t think I could ever pick a side between burlesque and drag and stay there permanently- I’m incurably indecisive! I think I’m one of many Melbourne performers who are currently straddling the two genres and taking the best from both worlds. I definitely got my sense of storytelling and theatrics from my classes in burlesque, but gender play is a very important part of what I do, so the world of drag is one I can’t walk away from. Both are about an exaggerated character, in the end. As burlesque opens up to freaky neo stuff and drag moves towards a need for the ‘reveal’ (hello rose petal wig), I think the line is blurring between the two forms and I want to be right in there with my paint brushes.
Ok, so we’re rewriting history, who’s name is going to be switched with Ira Luxuria, who do you wanna replace?
I’d like to replace some iconic mid-century artist who was actually a raging misogynist, like Picasso- just take the space they had, continue doing the same work to reshape art history, but also just… not be a massive douche.
Oh my golly your TikToks! How are you finding the platform, love it / hate it? Nervous around the controversy surrounding it?
I’ve definitely been loving the sheer amount of creative juice flowing on TikTok at the moment. The app is very accessible in the way that it allows users to create editing magic and embody certain songs or characters. Drag performers and cosplayers make absolutely epic things on TikTok, and you also get direct access to political events as they happen, for example the Black Lives Matter protests in Australia and overseas. Like any other social media platform, it has dangers in terms of privacy and also the potential for folks to get addicted or to compare their output or reception to other people. I don’t claim to know how to solve those issues, but I think any app that allows people to share who they are does a lot of good.
Glitz and glamour, rock’n’roll punk or futuristic elizabethan… You can only choose one for the rest of your career, which one would you choose (and why)?
IF someone is available to make me costumes for the rest of my career that are exact replicas of Elizabeth I’s ensembles but out of PVC and LED lights, I’m here for futuristic elizabethan!
Let’s talk Rocky Horror. You’ve dressed as nearly all of the characters, performed it live and just recently in a streamed performance… Where does your love for it come from?
I think like lots of Rocky fans, I found the movie to be this doorway that led me to an enormous world of queer self-expression and community-building. The film has this amazing, patched together aesthetic of space age, mad scientist laboratory, haunted house and Weimar cabaret that has made such a lasting impact, and the whole vibe of the movie boils down to ‘Don’t dream it, be it’- take the weirdest, sexiest, most delicious parts of yourself out, cover them in sequins and show them to the world.
I first watched the movie as a teen and went to an audience participation showing at the Astor Theatre way back in 2010. When I first saw The Pelvic Thrusts perform their shadow cast show at a New Years’ Eve screening in 2014, I fell in love right away and walked up to ask if I could join. The tradition of a shadow cast is amazing because it really blurs the line between dedicated audience members who love dress-ups and performers bringing the screen to life. Our audience in the cinemas where we perform make the night what it is, I honestly think my best experiences as a performer have been with The Pelvic Thrusts. You see people of all ages come out of their shells and it’s so joyful.
Which artist would you love to create a wild collaboration with?
My favourite painter of all time is Gustav Klimt. I’d love for him to design the set and costuming for an epic psycho-sexual adventure tale where I play the gender-ambiguous representation of undisclosed desires. Something simple and modest like that!
What’s your feels for the future… Do you have a direction you want to take Ira or your artistic career?
I certainly hope to return Ira to Melbourne stages bigger and better than ever once it’s permitted, and I’d really love to tour with shows in the future. I think just continuing to move outside of my comfort zone is important. I’ve largely stuck to the expected variety night act length of 5 minutes, but I’m really interested in projects that go for longer, whether that be a full length solo show, or acting in plays, or working on a less segmented form of cabaret, with acts interacting with each other and bleeding from one to the next. Ira needs to move away from embodying a refined duchess on a white horse and more towards that crazy marquis travelling the world with a pet zebra.
The world marketing department just contacted us and they’d like to make you the face of a world holiday, Santa’s already claimed Christmas, but what holiday should I put you down for?
So I feel like all drag performers have the rights to Halloween, it wouldn’t be fair for me to take it. BUT if Halloween is not on a Saturday, I would like to be the living embodiment of the Saturday that’s closest to the 31st and used as the Halloween party night. If you’re decking your sharehouse out in 5km of fake cobwebs for a massive Halloween pissup, you call upon me. If you leave 2 tequila shots and a nice craft beer by a mirror at the front door, I show up in a cloud of purple smoke. I come dressed as whatever character is statistically most likely to make all your guests horny and great at dancing. We party till dawn and nobody has to vom in your pot plants. You’ve been blessed by Luxuria, spirit of November-2nd-or-whatever-date-it-is.
Why is art important to you?
Like so many other people I know, I was the shy creative kid who really didn’t feel like I was very important. But art was the first thing that ever made me feel like I was larger than life, like the feelings inside of me were real and could mould the world around me. And the most magical thing of all is- just when you think that all you’ve done is pull something out of yourself to reassure yourself that it’s real and that you’re real, someone else tells you that what you created made them believe in the world inside themselves. Art is the manifestation of the experience of sonder- the realisation that everyone on the planet has the same level of complexity and depth in them that you do. We’re all just fragile drunk little mammals and yet our insides are so MASSIVE- art lets us prove it each other.
Check out Ira online!
1 and 4 - Self portrait
2 and 6 - @jackgoesclick
3 - @3fatesmedia
5 - Lucy Frawley
7 - Mark Gambino