Star Wars gets burlesque makeover

STRIPTEASE: The Empire Strips Back is "sexually charged without being gratuitous" says creator Russall Beattie.
STRIPTEASE: The Empire Strips Back is "sexually charged without being gratuitous" says creator Russall Beattie.

Creating every aspect of a Star Wars burlesque show, from costumes to choreography, Russall Beattie drew deeply on his 25 years as a Star Wars fan and his career as a burlesque troupe creative director.

In only one regard did he have to come down hard on the side of burlesque over authenticity.

"I had to find a way to make Wookiees actually sexy,'' he said.

''So I created a tribe of women who hunt Wookiees and skin them. I've just got these girls wearing gutted Wookiee heads as head pieces and just fur bikinis and stuff like that."

Beattie has spent months creating Star Wars Burlesque: The Empire Strips Back, a burlesque show based on George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy that features sexy storm troopers, a dancing Darth Vader and a bikini-clad Boba Fett.

He believes the show, which opens in Sydney tomorrow night, combines "the greatest thing of being a kid with the greatest thing of being an adult".

Star Wars burlesque shows have been performed in Los Angeles, Chicago and London, and Beattie was inspired when he saw a version in the US.

"I was just very disappointed," he said. "[It] was not a great example of what could have been done with such an amazing thing in quite a loose and exciting genre like burlesque."

He bemoaned the other shows' focus on striptease.

"This is the problem I have with a lot of contemporary burlesque," he said. ''After doing it for 10 years and working around the world, I get quite bored of just going through the motions of striptease."

As such, the burlesque of his Jaded Vanities group is a galaxy far, far away from buck's night material.

"All our acts are sexually charged without being gratuitous," Beattie said.

In fact, he estimated that most audiences were 60 to 70 per cent female, although Star Wars was admittedly ''about 50-50".

Male or female, audience members could get by without an intimate knowledge of the Force.

"To tell you the truth, two of the dancers hadn't even seen Star Wars when they did the first run," Beattie said. ''At the end of the day, the rule of thumb is it still has to be entertaining.''

So if Wookiees were the biggest burlesque hurdle, what was the secret to sexy sand people?

"You don't know what is underneath when they take off their robes," Beattie said. "If you come on the night, you'll see."

Sydney Morning Herald