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Reviews/Theatre

New venue needs steak to sizzle

15 November 2019

Review: Strut and Fret, ‘Boom Boom in the House of Casa BlahBlah’ ⋅
The Rechabite, November 8 ⋅
Review by David Zampatti ⋅

One thing is certain: The Rechabite will be the reddest, hottest item in Perth’s hospitality and entertainment precinct this summer and festival season.

Its ground zero location and spectacular design, its provenance and the track record, smarts and influence of the consortium behind make that the safest of bets. And it looks, admittedly on first exposure, like the sort of place a whole lot of fun can be had in.

While I didn’t venture into the basement Goodwill Club dancery, the ground floor cocktail bar and its fusion-of-everything Double Rainbow eatery were stylish and tasty, and the rooftop bar – well, we can never get enough of them, can we?

The Rechabite: ground zero location and spectacular design. Photo Marcos Silverio

I’ve got a couple of questions, though, and they’re closely related. How will the venue go when summer’s over and the circuses of January, February and March pack up their spiegeltents and leave town? And what will The Rechabite add to the popular arts ecology of Perth? Both will take time to resolve – but nothing I saw on an opening night anchored by Strut and Fret’s Boom Boom in the House of Blah Blah answered the latter.

I’ve been an outspoken advocate for extending a stripped down version of fringe through the whole year. It would provide a desperately needed fillip to Perth’s lifestyle and become, over time, a tourist attraction even as potent as quokkas. Maybe The Rechabite will add a piece of that puzzle.

But there’s fringe and there’s fringe, and while low payload, even lower common denominator packages like Boom Boom may fill festival big tops (a lesson learned by Fringe World and now Rechabite director Marcus Canning), they do little to excite, and nothing to elevate. They’re the money, but they can never be the show.

It’s not that I’ve got anything against cirque du burlesque. Two of the most enjoyable shows to saunter into Perth in recent years were Spiegelworld’s Empire and Absinthe, with stars like Memet Bilgin and his mesmerising Sandoom Balance Act, and the gobsmackingly filthy emcees The Gazillionaire and Abby Bobbins.

Men in white underwear juggle top hats
Performers from Boom Boom in the House of BlahBlah. Photo Mia Campbell-Foulkes

There’s nothing like them in Boom Boom, not even close, and though its acrobatic acts were highly skilled, none were ground-breaking, and they appeared far too infrequently.

More often we were in the unctuous company of unfunnyman Claudio Carneiro, lip-synchers and bumpers and grinders; one grueling little skit set in and around an outdoor dunny should have been accompanied by the Benny Hill theme.

The packed house of the first half thinned out considerably after interval. Many in the audience obviously decided there were better things to do, and more fun to be had, elsewhere in the complex.

Canning and his cohorts are savvy and sensitive enough to know that sizzle without steak is no meal, and I’m sure there will be better things to come. Hopefully they’ll range across the popular arts (and provide opportunities for our own performers). That’ll be good for them, and us. And when winter comes and the tents are gone, I believe it will be good for The Rechabite as well.

Boom Boom continues at The Rechabite until December 21.

Pictured top: A performer from Boom Boom in the House of BlahBlah opening at The Rechabite this month. Photo Mia Campbell-Foulkes.

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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