The Strange Fruit Cabaret is a self-described celebration of the “boldest, bravest, ‘badass black diamond queens who dared to do things their way.” Dedicating itself to Sarah Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman who was abused by being shown as a freak show act in Europe in the 19th century, the piece is an essentially revoltist dedication to Black artists. The show pays homage to Billie Holliday, Josephine Baker, Betty Davis and Grace Jones to name but a few. Offering decadence and pleasure, the cabaret aims to explore the relationship between Black performers, their bodies, and the viewing public. With extraordinary intrigue, we sat down with Black Venus and Mars DeLite to talk all things Strange Fruit Cabaret.
Catch the Strange Fruit Cabaret on Saturday 11th March at 22:30 in The Flair Ground (Lates). Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
You’ve put together a cabaret that takes a look at sensuality and the entertainment industry through the eyes of iconic Black women like Billy Holliday, Betty Davis and Grace Jones – how has that experience been for you?
“Creating a show around such powerful women has been both humbling and inspiring. Making sure we did a good job at expressing them as complex and multifaceted individuals, in terms of their public and private lives, requires sensitivity, curiosity and compassion – and also a sense of humour! These women were subversive and really good at making fun at society.
“This has been a completely overwhelming, exhausting – but joyful experience. Our motto for the show has been “doin it on a dime and dream” and “what will be will be” – so far, we’ve been pretty lucky. All jokes aside, we feel incredibly blessed but also acknowledge how hard we have been working as a team and as individuals to pull this off.”
Tell us a little bit about what the audience can expect out of your upcoming VAULT show – with a 270 minute run time I’m sure it’s jam packed with variety and intrigue!
“The show is fast paced, full of sex sass and debauchery whilst also serving a poignant message about what it means to be a Black woman in the entertainment industry. The audience can expect to go through a wide range of emotions, we want to keep people on their toes, we hope everyone will take something different from it.”
Your show’s promo material evokes nudity and burlesque – how does that fit into the cabaret and are you using those elements to tell a certain story?
“We want to show how nudity has its place in art and culture. For black women who have been hypersexualised and exotified, we have developed ways of approaching nudity with a range of motivations and intentions, many of which are informed by these histories of oppression and liberation.”
Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT 23, what are you most excited for?
“We are excited to perform for a new and bigger audience at VAUT 23. We were originally booked for VAULT Festival 2022 but due Ms Rona it was unfortunately cancelled, this may have been a blessing in disguise as it gave us a year to really develop the show, get a few performances under our belt and now we are ready and raring to go.
“This is an ever evolving piece, we would like to introduce new stories and performers as we grow. There are so many inspiring women to honour and remember. When writing the show one of our main challenges was trying to fit it all in! If you would like to see the show in its original format you should see it now, it will not be the same in a year or so. We would also like to thank the Grand Plan Fund for their support in our early development, and encourage other artists to seek them out.”
Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
“I think if Strange Fruit Cabaret was a drink, it would have to be a frozen Banana Daiquiri,
because we are strong, sweet, sharp and refreshing.”