Lola’s Grave Mistake
Director: Ian Harman
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mr Lola Illusion (Ian Harman) perform in ‘The Lola Show’ at the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2017 and as MC at the ten-year celebration performance of his popular burlesque show at Centrepoint Theatre ‘Tease-o-rama’, and I did wonder if ‘Lola’s Grave Mistake’ could offer more. It does.
Grab your sombrero and enter the sombre darkness, and burning pain, of a broken heart. You may find yourself in something resembling hell in The Darkroom, but with Mr Lola Illusion taking centre stage, even the hellishness of a broken heart looks hot in heels.
If you want to practise some facial exercises, then simply being in the audience will give you a great session of facial rejuvenation. I smiled, laughed and sighed deeply as Lola took me on a journey from intoxicating joy to heartache, and back again, during his short but sweet one-hour extravaganza. The art and magic of story-telling is alive in every cell of Lola’s vibrant body and soul. Somehow, he smiles with his whole body and wears sadness like a bodysuit of rocks.
Shaking his tail feathers, Mr Lola illusion takes us on a whirlwind ride to hell and back. There’s a real beauty in the honesty, naivety, and vulnerability that Lola expresses in the—at times—heart-breaking narrative that runs through the show, of which perfect performance by Ian Harman kept the audience engaged and vocally supportive. Though matters of the heart are a serious subject, Lola creates a redemption-song, Mexican-cabaret, drama/comedy genre which is as lively as the fast-beating heart of a drunk person running in heels (while singing). Cleverly placed subtle and some not-so-subtle innuendo was delivered with a wink and a cheeky smile and received with noisy, happy laughter.
There was an ever-so enticing cameo by the always delightful Sam Lyons aka ‘Costa DeMillion’ of The Boom, Boom Room Burlesque fame, and the unmistakable voice of local singing legend Amy McKenna was detected in a remixed version of ‘Jolene’.
Great musical numbers belted out without restraint (and sometimes while running) were well chosen and performed to wonderful effect. Sometimes when I’m watching shows with a few musical numbers I groan and think ‘oh no, not another one’, but this was not one of those times—Ian Harman has cleverly re-worked and created songs to tell his story in a most enchanting way.
Being a master of set, direction, and costuming (among many other things) Harman has everything well planned out and running seamlessly (although any show I ever created would never feature me running, let alone in heels). As usual for a show with his artistic hands all over it, the set and props seem to just magically appear and disappear out of nowhere. Telephone scenes that weave their way through the show were perfectly executed and an absolute crowd pleaser. Mr Lola Illusion is so generous to the audience that he even handed out popcorn to be devoured during the most dramatic parts of his act.
Lola’s Grave Mistake is a performance about love and loss that we can all relate to, and I am always grateful to those who are brave enough to share their stories with such honesty. Mr Lola Illusion showed us his heart—it’s beautiful.
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