The world has gone mad for Star Wars this week, but a show coming to Brisbane next month will put a whole new spin on the franchise.
Advance ticket sales for Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been breaking records and crashing websites around the world this week, and the buzz really went into hyperdrive when the film’s new trailer was released. But there’s another hot ticket that adult fans of the sci-fi saga should know about.
The Empire Strips Back takes classic characters from the Star Wars galaxy and drops them into the cheeky world of burlesque, combining a genuine love of the films with striptease, song and dance, and comedy to create a show that just might turn you to the Dark Side.
From sexy Stormtroopers to tantalising Twi’leks, the costumes are astonishingly detailed and accurate, but of course, they don’t stay on for long.
We asked show creator Russall S. Beattie what inspired this bizarre mash-up — and how he manages to do all this without getting sued.
What came first for you, Russall – Star Wars or burlesque? Were you one of those kids who loved playing with Star Wars action figures?
Star Wars was first and foremost, and that is reflected in the show. We are true to Star Wars first and burlesque second; but it does make for a good balance. Yes, I was the kid/ teenager/ adult who played with his action figures and basically I still am, I’ve just replaced them with half naked women.
What was the impetus for this show? Star Wars and burlesque are two great flavours, but what made you realise they’d taste great together?
To me, it was obvious. I took all the best things about being a kid and all the best things of being an adult and mashed them together.
What appeals to you about burlesque as an art form?
The rawness, the sense that there is a danger factor. You’re not 100 per cent sure what will happen next. One moment can be beautiful, then the next can be rude and shocking.
Do the performers tend to be fans of Star Wars, or do you have to educate them a little?
A bit of both. We have geek girls and fan boys in the show… others learn. Trust me, after a few shows they are all experts.
Do you think the show would still work for someone who doesn’t like Star Wars, or do you really need to be a fan?
The show is just good entertainment. You don’t need to know anything to enjoy it. But if you do, those jokes will carry a bit more weight. Fan or not, either way, you will be entertained by two hours of pure escapism.
I’m guessing you get a few Star Wars fans at the shows who don’t see a lot of burlesque. Does it take them a while to ‘get’ it? Does anybody get offended at your interpretation of the characters?
Overall we have nothing but positive feedback. We have sold over 60,000 tickets and you get every type of person through the door. People have an idea of what they are going to get when they come to the show and we deliver that on our marketing. The big thing is love and respect for the source material, which we have and it shows.
Who’s your favourite character in The Empire Strips Back, and why?
Jabba The Hut. Our Jabba is a four-meter long puppet that takes four people to bring him to life. He is a big, slimy pimp and he loves it.
How do you put on a show like this without Disney suing the chaps off you?
Two ways. Make sure you know your legal rights exactly, and do it good.
What’s the most fun part of working on a show like this?
Bringing it to life. No CGI, stop motion, massive crews, etc., just creative problem solving. Like how to make a real life Taun Taun move around on stage and the logistics of touring such a thing. That’s what I enjoy the most; bringing the magic to life.
What’s the most challenging costume to create?
Every costume has it challenges, whether it’s finding the exact Wookiee fur, body casting a dancer for a C3P0 costume, or creating the perfect fine details that you know fans will point out if you get it wrong.
Has The Force Awakens led to more interest in the show? Has anything from the new movie been integrated into the show?
Simple answer is Star Wars is Star Wars, it has always been super popular. But The Force Awakens is going to be even crazier. I have not put anything in the show… yet. I will wait to see the film so I know what context everything is in. I tried to get Lucasfilm to show me an advance screening so I could try add some things into the show… I’m still waiting for a response.
Finally, which line of dialogue from Star Wars do you think sounds the dirtiest?
“Get in there, you big furry oaf — I don’t care WHAT you smell!” – Han Solo
The Empire Strips Back plays at The Tivoli on 6 & 7 November and is strictly limited to 18+ audiences. Leave the Padawans at home. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.au for tickets.