[Review] EXOTIC HYPNOTICA: burlesque that’s brave, beautiful, and confronting

Exotic Hypnotica review by Simone Penkethman // Pics by Tobias Price

9-12 February 2022 @ Belconnen Arts Centre

Brave, beautiful and confronting, Jazida’s Exotic Hypnotica doesn’t pull its punches.

Dancer and burlesque artist Rachel Reid AKA Jazida is a gifted and highly skilled performer whose daring routines, tricks, and comic moments are all performed in the service of a deeper, darker narrative.

Exotic Hypnotica consists of nine musical numbers performed over two acts, during which Jazida takes her audience on a journey through her dark night of the soul.

The opening number begins with a darkly lit set that is reminiscent of a southeast Asian temple. Jazida’s costume evokes orientalist tropes of the dark and dangerous ‘other’. Jazida plays with fire – twirling, breathing, and swallowing – all to a mash-up of different versions of Brittany Spears’ Toxic.

As she sheds her layers of costume, we feel our sensory responses and preconceptions being played with; entranced and aroused, we become complicit in the objectification of the exotic oriental.

As the music ends, an almost naked Jazida stands small and vulnerable on the stage and delivers a monologue in which she starts to confront the daemons of her childhood and early adult life.

She reveals that she did not choose to be born in Saudi Arabia; to grow up in Cambodia as the daughter of a white missionary; or to be taught to speak only in English rather than in her Philippine mother’s native tongue.

She shares with us her recent realisation that she is not “as white, straight, or as integrated” as she thought she was.

Exotic Hypnotica is a technically ambitious production with video, kaleidoscopic light, and sound well integrated with costume and set design. Two blondes appear intermittently on various screens to coach Jazida through a hypnotic journey that promises to be “so good you’ll forget yourself”.

But does Jazida really want to forget either her queer sexual orientation or her oriental heritage? Is she hiding or revealing her true self with her outrageous stage makeup and sequinned costumes? Is integration her path to happiness or simply a way to make the white, straight majority feel more comfortable?

This is Jazida’s second full length solo show* following her 2019/20 noir, detective burlesque show, Catch Jazida. It was developed through an in-depth mentorship with Australian burlesque legends, the Finucane and Smith Collective, and reveals an artist maturing from a burlesque star to a theatre maker.

Exotic Hypnotica combines many elements and ideas, and some of which are better integrated than others. This reviewer looks forward to seeing Jazida find the right director or dramaturge to support her to realise her full theatrical potential.

The final Canberra performances of Exotic Hypnotica are on today – Saturday, 12 February – at the Belconnen Arts Centre at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets available by clicking here.

A livestream of the 8pm performance can be found at this link.

*Jazida was joined on stage by the fabulous fan dancers and on video by Morgan Heath-Williams and Rina Jay Hind and others.

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