Reg Livermore - Betty Blokk Buster Follies

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BETTY RETURNS
NEW AND REIMAGINED IN 2020



Betty Blokk Buster Reimagined



DIRECTED BY CRAIG ILOTT
7 - 26 JANUARY


On 16 April 1975, a saucy hausfrau with a feather duster and a bare bottom stepped onto the stage of the Balmain Bijou and changed Australian theatre. Betty Blokk Buster Follies was the talk of the town. The one-man show was hailed by The National Times as "the greatest thing since Rice Bubbles" and its creator, Reg Livermore, became a star.

The Bijou is no more (converted to apartments) but Betty lives again in a brand-new show by Red Line Productions (the multi-award-winning custodians of Sydney's Old Fitzroy Theatre), directed by Craig Ilott (Velvet, Smoke & Mirrors) and starring the multi-talented Josh Quong Tart.

Inspired by the original 1975 staging and reimagined with Livermore's imprimatur, this 21st century Betty Blokk-Buster invites Sydney Festival audiences into her tent show, where a live band and Betty's coterie of reinvented has-beens, battlers, freaks and survivors are waiting to wow a new generatio

n.

"[Livermore's] shows in the '70s and early '80s were skilful, expressive and daring… [without them] the history of Australia's performing arts would be a great deal poorer and far less colourful" – The Sydney Morning Herald

Produced by Andrew Henry and Vanessa Wright for Red Line Productions
"Inspired by Reg Livermore's Betty Blokk Buster Follies of 1975"



Redline Productions

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* Article: You Betty believe it: She's back! - Sydney Morning Herald
* Article: Betty's Back - Lunch with Leo, Wentworth Courier

Photo: Josh Quong Tart as Betty in 'Betty Blokk Buster Reimagined'. Photo by: Daniel Linnet







"One of the most successful, craziest one-man shows
in Australian theatrical history"



Reg Livermore's
BETTY BLOKK BUSTER FOLLIES








BETTY BLOKK BUSTER FOLLIES - DVD







The long awaited release on DVD of Reg Livermore's Betty Blokk Buster Follies!

In April 1975 Reg Livermore stormed the stage of Sydney's Balmain Bijou Theatre with his groundbreaking show Betty Blokk Buster Follies. A tour de force, an irrestible blend of music and comedy, the show caught the imagination of audiences all round Australia filling theatres wherever it played. This record of the show was released in cinemas during 1976 and is at last available DVD!

Songs include Family Of Man, Hello In There, Captain Jack, What Makes A Man A Man, The Entertainer and Celluloid Heroes, with well known characters, Betty Blokk Buster, Tara the Incredible, The Old Man and Vasaline Amyl Nitrate.

Find out more about Betty Blokk Buster Follies here





BETTY BLOKK BUSTER FOLLIES - CD





The original Sydney season of Betty Blokk Buster Follies in 1975 lead to the release of a vinyl double album which was a chart topper for many months, it received 2 gold records and then a platinum. It was a must have album of its time.

It has now been reproduced on CD. Songs include Family Of Man, Hello In There, Captain Jack, What Makes A Man A Man, Is That All There Is, Walk On The Wildside, Train, Travelling Prayer, Ticking, The Entertainer and Celluloid Heroes amoung many more.





BETTY BOMB SHELL

BETTY BLOKK BUSTER FOLLIES premiered at the Balmain Bijou in Sydney on April 16, 1975.


Following a sell out eight months Sydney season the show played Canberra, the Perth Festival, The Adelaide Festival, and closed in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre on 31 July 1976.


The critics threw their hats in the air, ´LIVERMORE´S PERFORMANCE IS STUNNING - THE GREATEST THING SINCE RICE BUBBLES - THE MOST PROFESSIONAL PIECE OF THEATRE SEEN IN THIS COUNTRY - MANAGES TO MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, CLAP YOUR HANDS, STAMP YOUR FEET, THRILL TO HIS MUSIC AND CHILL TO YOUR BONES - A SENSATION - ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS IN AUSTRALIAN THEATRE HISTORY - A BRILLIANT STAR´.

Getting this show up and running was never less than a labour of love; what we finished up with was a vaguely French, sort of German, European-style cabaret, but not at all Sydney; in every way it was a theatrical eye-opener. There was no formula, it was impossible to separate the ingredients and elements, the combination of this thing and that thing just happened to ´work´. It was no thanks to the Sydney newspapers we managed to capitalize on those first enthusiastic and encouraging performances: the Sydney Morning Herald refused point blank to send a critic along because ´We don´t review drag shows´ they told us. The other papers were also initially reluctant: in the end, perhaps three months down the track, a momentum at the ticket box, entirely independent of their reportage, forced the papers to pay us a visit.

The content and delivery was very personal, strongly influenced by my own experiences in theatre over the years, active and passive, as the doer and the watcher, recalling and reinventing things I had seen as far back as my childhood: Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the Tivoli pantomimes, nights at the Mosman Musical Society, the Borovansky Ballet, the imported Broadway and West End offerings, even that great post Second World War New Zealand concert party, The Kiwis. I am the sum of these parts.

Betty took place in a circus ring, on show in it was a less-than-grand parade of tawdry variety acts: a makeshift fairground of life´s dinkum battlers, freaks and survivors existing in a kind of sideshow alley, but in this instance a backstage view of it, behind the scenes. I invited the audience to face all of these people objectively and with compassion, not to judge any of them until they well and truly had their measure. More often than not my characters arrive on stage wearing costumes that are fairly stereotypical, and I intend them to be; because of what they look like and then what they proceed to say about their lives doesn´t often match an audience´s preconceptions, the fairly outrageous exterior trappings in jarring juxtaposition with what could turn out to be murky depths of their personalities. You had to be on your guard.

A performance lasting three hours on a public stage, and performed by one man, is some indication of what the show is on about. A shout no less, it says, ´Look at me, here I am! I´ve arrived. This is the opportunity of my life, I´ve got to take it and run with it´. It was and I did, which moved some to remark it was just a wank. Others saw it as the coming out of a gay man. The content wasn´t specifically orientated that way. Probably it comes down to not realizing what it is you´re projecting: whatever I am I´ve not been at pains to hide too much, in the end it was all Reg. This is what´s important: I´m acknowledged as an instrument of change, so if I did change people´s thinking, changed any attitudes along the way, then I´m proud of it. What an audience is thinking in a theatre when the lights are out is difficult to say exactly, but if the artist does manage to influence another for the betterment of our common good, then the evening could never be described as a waste of time, or even a wank. Thank God the majority saw me The Entertainer. It was only ever an act, because that´s what I do, that´s what I am. I´m an actor.

Betty brought me exactly the sort of success I´d always wanted. But there it is: the chance, the luck, the timing. The times themselves are part of everything, too. I thank Betty, the scary hairy-legged monster I gave birth to, she was one hell of a weird baby but she was mine; wherever we played she was the hottest ticket, she won me the First National Critics Award, and she gave me the courage and the determination to push on with the next thing. Best of all, she handed me the title I´d always intended to claim for myself: Star. They were now calling me ´Star´. I didn´t mind that at all.




Article from the time; by Lenore Nicklin, 1975

BETTY BLOKK-BUSTER TAKES A BREATHER


YOU COULDN'T get into the Bijou Theatre in Balmain last Sunday week for love nor money. It was the occasion of the last riotous romp of Eva Braun's best friend — that naughty whip-swishing, bottom-bearing fraulein Betty Blokk-Buster. Tickets for the final night had been booked out two months before, and the 800 Betty B fans who filled the theatre stamped, cheered, clapped and laughed themselves silly. AH that frenzy and adulation — someone said afterwards it was like Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. "I wished I'd been in the audience myself." said Reg Livermore, drinking a Christmas Eve vodka and apple juice before flying off to Rome for Christmas and Majorca for a swim. Going with friends — "like a dog on a leash" — so he doesn't have to plan anything, doesn't have to think. Liver­more, in jeans and T-shirt and looking a little peaky after eight months of his blockbusting one-man show on stage three hours a night, six nights a week, audiences demanding his blood and him giving it. Being Betty Blokk Buster and the football-playing ballerina Vaseline Amyl Nitrate and Tara the circus lady and all the other mad, sad or wonderful characters.

Never stinting, feeling a little beige some nights, but never giving less than everything.

No, it's not true he's lost two stone. He's lost five pounds. Betty's bottom remained pigeon-plump to the last curtain — not a dimple gained.

Livermore is 37 and, true to the tradition of clowns, grotesques and other flamboyant creatures of the theatre is, away from the stage, quiet, introverted, subdued, sensible. Aunts and bank managers would be re­assured. Come to think of it bank managers would be delighted. The Betty Blokk Buster Follies, the show that some of the critics didn't bother to review, has been one of the great commercial successes of 1975. Five dollars 50 cents a seat, a one-man, one-band, three-singer show that filled the theatre night after night for eight months and could have run another six.

The double-album made by Festival has become a bestseller, and two weeks ago the show was filmed for screening in the movie houses. Livermore is threatening to write the book.

As an outrageous Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar and as the outrageous Dr. Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror Show, he attracted such a following that the entrepre­neur Eric Dare decided to back him in a show of bis own. Livermore suggested "Reg's Show" as the title but no one was very enthusiastic; Betty Blokk-Buster Revue then? Betty Blockk-Buster Follies? Was Betty the name of the character in the show, asked Mr Dare. She wasn't but Livermore decided to, make her one. The publicity photographs were taken in Melbourne before Livermore had any idea of what the show would be about. He went to a costume hire place, saw an apron, feather duster and a cap and Betty Blokk-Buster became clad (well, half-clad anyway). He'd always had a thing about French maids, always wanted to pose for one of those naughty French calendars. Only Betty became German. The rest of the show? - "I got drunk one night and let my imagination wander." The show was so physically demanding that anyone who saw it in its first days thought that Livermore could not possibly survive more than a few weeks. Livermore also had some doubts. I kept myself in cotton wool like a peach in the window at Fortnum and Mason, he said. "For the first five months I really thought I shouldn't do anything. I'd stay in bed till 11, shuffle to the television, shuffle to the shop, have an afternoon sleep. Then one day I had some appointments and got myself activated and found I could go on." He would get to the theatre at 7 - I could do my makeup in 15 minutes and my nails in 10 and then I'd wait. I can't tell you how loath I was to the idea of going on stage. I suppose I knew what I was in for when I got there. I would sit thinking "It's getting nearer — it's getting nearer. By the time I got off I was a real wreck."

No, he didn't take vitamin pills. Or salt tablets or drugs only a couple of gins when it was all over. But it was amazing what audiences expected of you. There are the ones who want to see you and then feel they own you and want some sort of deep personal involvement. It's very difficult to say no, but in the end it has to be said. At first he was horrified to hear a voice saying, "He's not seeing anyone tonight," knowing that he had given the instructions. But what surprised him most of all was the acceptance of the show by so many different kinds of people. Whole families had written saying thank you, thank you for brightening their lives, extending horizons. Even the Festival of Light people hadn't complained about the Festival of Light number, although three young Jesus freaks had written nice letters asking him to reconsider his attitude. After his five-week holiday he will take the Blokk Buster Follies on tour to Canberra, Perth, Adelaide for the Festival, and Melbourne and then overseas. An approach from a top London entrepreneur has already been made.

He is a little apprehensive about venturing out of Australia because here be feels among friends, here the show is "an affectionate occasion."

"But I don't think I can avoid it," he says. "The whole business of theatre is that you put yourself up there to be knocked down or given a bit of a clap." The bit of a clap be was given last Sunday week was still ringing in his ears. "It was the best moment in my life," be said. "If nothing else happens in my life it wouldn't matter" Fortunately for theatregoers other things are to happen. He already has his next show planned. He's had it in his head for three months. It is, he promises, a surprise.


Photo: Betty Blokk Buster

Betty Blokk Buster Follies is available on CD and DVD





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