An established local burlesque fan favourite, Immoral Kombat is an improvised showcase of “battle burlesque” based loosely upon the Mortal Kombat universe showcasing notable performers from across South Australia’s burlesque, nerdlesque, pin-up, cosplay and pole dancing communities.
This innovative show debuted in 2015 and became a must-see event, and after a hiatus of two years was brought back by popular demand for a one-night-only event this Fringe. The match-ups are random, the performances all spur-of-the-moment and the crowd decide who will progress through the knockout rounds to become champion. Catchphrases from the Mortal Kombat universe are screamed at the top of your lungs with the countdown to “FIGHT” commencing each round before “FINISH HER” sees a faux-fatality move to confirm the elimination of an opponent by the victorious performer.
Approaching this format for the first time, there is some wonderful cosplay commitments to Mortal Kombat’s long roster of powerful female fighters, which soon evolved into unexpected combat combinations of Spongebob vs. a Teletubby and My Little Pony vs. a High School Nerd. There is a sense of play and jest in the format and the stage hands sponsored by the Flat Iron Toastie Shop add an added element of inside humour.
The roster of performers are introduced with some impressive credentials; current and former State burlesque champions with international performance notches on their impressive resumes. The art of tease which is usually focused upon a single performer’s on-stage subtly is thrown out the window largely for battles far more bombastic; sometimes comedic, sometimes clumsy. The shortcoming of the combat format is most evident when performance shifted from drawing the audience into an individual, to plain sabotage between combatants, and while provocative moves and comedic use of props provided some early humour, by the final battles which arguably should be the most eye catching based upon the idea of progress through success, the same jokes became repetitive.
Reigning Miss Burlesque Adelaide Vivienne Von Coffin was the standout performer on the night and rightly took home the title over Miss Curvella for the final battle. Pole performer Gia also absolutely mesmerised with her strength, dynamism and flexibility during her one-on-one . A final “Boss Battle” between an unexpected male performer and the anointed champion was unfortunately somewhat marred after some of the crowd had taken the MC’s first announcement of the show’s completion literally. While faithful to the MK universe theme, this battle was also the most underwhelming battle of the evening for the contrast of “stripper bravado” with the earlier burlesque performers. Like all iconic gaming series there are lulls in the franchise, and this Immoral Kombat seemed somewhat disjointed. Perhaps it was a bit of rust after hiatus, but the audience’s indifferent participation at times was an accurate gauge that the highlights were not enough to sustain the 90 minute format.
Immoral Kombat is sure to remain a firm favourite amongst the scene, but hit performances in this subversion of burlesque were too inconsistent to realise the true promise of this show.
2.5 Stars out of 5.
Reviewed by Sarah Burley