Review: The Monstrous Ball – Buddies in Bad Times

As part of Pride Week I took in The Monstrous Ball at Buddies in Bad Times with my friend Theresa. The event is not a play exactly but it is a decent attempt at a Warhol party. The aesthetic theme of the evening was Lady Gaga but this was not apparent when entering the space.

The Buddies in Bad Times main-space provided enough room for the various performances of the evening and to give the audience room to dance but it failed to immediately set out the Gaga vibe. When we arrived it felt more like any other dance club on a quiet night.

There was a catwalk down the centre of the room that would be used for several performances. There were also a couple of sheets of white paper hanging from the walls that seemed to be waiting to be used for improvised portrait sessions. The music was appropriately loud and danceable.

As the evening progressed we witnessed the first bit of live performance. A performer channelling Yoko Ono led local drag star Cassandra to a lit area. Once there she offered any interested bystander a pair of scissors and free licence to destroy Cassandra’s dress.

This echoed Ono’s performance art piece “Cut Piece” from the 1960’s. After Cassandra’s dress was fully destroyed, she was ushered out and was replaced with local performance artist Nina Arsenault. Arsenault did a rendition of Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present.”

I had never heard of “The Artist is Present” before that night and Theresa told me about it. This piece involves the artist sitting still in a chair facing another vacant chair. Audience members were then invited to sit in the other chair and simply be with another person for a while.

Owing to the Lady Gaga theme of the evening Arsenault was decked out in a body suit, massive made-up lips and flowery fake eye lashes. Theresa described Abramovic’s original style of dress to be a little more sedated than Aresnault’s and wondered how the more outlandish style affected the participants perception.

Other performances that evening included a Lady Gaga-themed fashion show that was a little tame compared to the evening’s patron saint. A model voraciously devouring cupcakes and sharing them with the audience, and another model who covered herself with a fair dose of fake blood were the wildest that the fashion portion got.

The two drag performances that evening were both equally fun and mostly harmless. Fay Slift and the Lady Boy’s gave their best “Edge of Glory” with the Lady Boy’s constituting a full chorus line of eight gentlemen performing (mostly) in step.

Although their performances weren’t perfect, part of the fun of it was the flaws. I imagined that these gentlemen were rounded up at the last minute with just enough time to run through the choreography a couple of times. They sold it with big smiles.

The second piece was Cassandra and four back up dancers and, although the crowd was smaller by the time she took the stage at 1 AM, the remaining audience members were enthusiastic. The choreography was lively and tight and it had a lot more visual dynamics than the previous performance.

In both Cassandra’s piece and the evening in general, I thought there was more room to have fun with Gaga aesthetic. Cassandra and her back-up dancers ended up in jean jackets and black shorts but no duct tape or uncooked steak. Theresa and I both agreed that it was a generally enjoyable evening that could have gone from a somewhat kooky drag show to a full-on Gaga spectacular. When it comes to Gaga there is no room for half measures.

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