Ian Harman and Emma Donaldson have a chat about their alter egos, Lola and Cherries, and their upcoming show Double Act – set to steal the spotlight during Upstage: Invercargill Festival of Cabaret. The duo will also be running a community workshop during the festival, to give others a little taste of showgirl glamour.
Keep reading to find out what a treat you’re in for, at Upstage: Invercargill Festival of Cabaret.
Who are Mr Lola Illusion and Cherries Jubilee? What does the audience need to know about them?
Mr Lola Illusion is a boylesque crooner, conjurer and professional show-off! He is at the helm of The Boom Boom Room Burlesque, which is in the Manawatū. The burlesque has been operating since 2007 and is one of the longest running burlesques in the country. Cherries Jubilee is one of the Boom Boom Room Burlesque star dancers and is renowned for her slick dance technique and cheeky demeanour. Together their chemistry is electric and they just bounce off each other.
Tell me a bit about your backgrounds – how did you get your start in entertainment, and what was the journey to get you where you are today?
We both started training when we were children and performed in competitions and amateur theatre productions. We moved on to professional careers dancing in Australia, India, Japan and Taiwan, which is where we met. Cherries was contracted on as a dancer from an Australian company and Lola was flown in from New Zealand to be a magician in a theme park there. We hit it off and became best mates. We basically lived out of each other’s pockets and we just trust and respect each other. When Cherries randomly ended up in New Zealand a few years later, Lola asked her to come and do some burlesque with him, and we have continued performing together to this very day.
Have you performed in Invercargill before? What made you want to be part of Upstage: Invercargill Festival of Cabaret?
Cherries has been involved with Invercargill Musical Theatre as a choreographer, but Lola has never been this far south! What made us want to come was that we absolutely love the art form of cabaret, and any chance to be on a stage in front of a new crowd and taking them on a journey of joy is one we relish.
Give us a brief overview of the show – what should audiences expect?
Double Act is full of burlesque, magic and comedy. It’s a vaudevillian folly, you’ll get to meet these two personalities who live for the stage and watch them navigate the experience of being in a show together, displaying their talents, and also trying to share the spotlight… there is definitely some upstaging to be seen! It is fun and light-hearted and a big fat love letter to old school vaudeville entertainment.
Do you have a favourite moment that you’re looking forward to sharing with the crowd?
Oh! The whole thing! Double Act is full of lots of cute little acts that take the audience to fun places. There are so many little jokes and surprises. As adults we often don’t get to experience moments of total escapism and joy. Double Act is about embracing those moments, and lots of grown-up silliness.
What’s the best part of putting on a show like this? How about the most challenging aspect?
The best part is getting to work with each other! We have a real-life friendship of 18 years, and a very similar work ethic and aesthetic. We bounce off each other emotionally and creatively. It’s an amazing thing to be able to continue performing together! The hardest part is that Lola lives in the North Island and Cherries in the South, so we rehearse via Facetime and through emails, but when we come together the jigsaw is complete and the work forms very quickly.
What do you hope the audience gets out of your performance?
We hope they just relax and laugh and revel in the art of silliness. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Life is fun, magic is real, and our burlesque is about positive sexuality, and the joy of being human.
You’re also involved in the workshops we are running during Upstage, in conjunction with Arts Murihiku. Tell us a bit about what the participants can expect from these?
We are presenting The Retro Showgirl Workshop. Our experience as professional dancers, choreographers and performers is strongly based in retro showgirl technique. And it’s a skill set that is great when you’re working as a team and also as a solo performer. It’s about a connection of movement with costume and spectacle, and it’s also about creating a nostalgic feel to your performance style.
Tell us about the process – how do the participants progress from when they walk in, to the time the workshop has ended?
Showgirl Style is great for all kinds of performers from burlesque to commercial dancers, drag performers, troupes and soloists. And it’s not limited by body shape or gender. We will work on posture and performance in heels, there will be some choreography to learn and parts of a routine to perform. The participants will get a brief overview of how the skills can be used in lots of different aspects of performance, and how it assists in creating moments that your audience remembers. And you can work in sneakers if you like!
What do you enjoy most about sharing your knowledge and skills?
We love sharing our knowledge and seeing students have lightbulb moments. We love teaching people of various skill levels that they are all on a valid performance journey. Also, teaching always gives back and helps remind us of where we have come and techniques we may have forgotten.
What will workshop participants take away from their experience with you?
Hopefully the skills to create a little bit of showgirl glamour and poise wherever they are, whether it’s the Civic Theatre’s stage, the local club, or the aisle at PAK‘nSAVE!