Interview: Vashti Hughes / Six Quick Chicks
[Sydney 2011 Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras]
Six Quick Chicks
More bang for your buck!
By Stephanie Yip
Sydney has a thriving alt-cabaret scene that is both prolific and interesting – from Cabaret Sauvignon to 34B Burlesque, Sydney Festival’s hugely popular Smoke & Mirrors, and the Opera House’s Late Night Lounge series. According to veteran ‘cabarettist’ Vashti Hughes, the only problem is making money. Vashti (who, incidentally, is part of the famous Hughes family that includes sister Christa and father Dick) says she’s spent the last 15 years trying to make ends meet, going in-and-out of teaching drama and English as a second language. So it stands to reason that her cabaret brainchild, Six Quick Chicks, was born wielding a marketing plan.
“I’d just done a show and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, what a tragedy. We’ve put on a fantastic show and if people weren’t there to see it, that’s it. It’s over. And such a small amount of people saw it. I thought, I’d like to have something with more continuity that can roll-on into the foreseeable future,” Hughes recalls.
“To be honest, I was trying to think of something that might be a bit more marketable. Where someone could say, ‘tell me what the show’s about.’ And I’d go, ‘In about an hour, you’ll see six completely different acts and they’re all women. We call it Six Quick Chicks.’ Performers can go in and out, bring in different characters and create work that’s ongoing – or create new work,” Hughes beams.
The self-appointed “mother hen” of the group, Hughes admits that ‘Six Quick Chicks’ is somewhat of a misnomer, since she has many more than five chicks in her care; in fact, at this point she has a brood of over ten – which allows for flexibility in the show’s line-up. “Jude Bowler and Liesel Knievel have their own solo shows in Mardi Gras. Both use material that they use in Six Quick Chicks, which is good as it keeps an ongoing momentum for the performer,” says Hughes.
Conferring with the available chicks before each performance, Hughes admits she’s a taskmaster in ensuring each chick’s ten-minute stint is succinct and diverse. “There’s something to be said about a slick, snappy show that has people thinking ‘What’s the next thing?’ And if you’ve got an ongoing audience, you want to ensure they have new things to look at and experience.”
“Each act varies because each chick has different skills and paces. There’s somebody from more of a circus/physical background (Christa – aka KK Juggy, formerly of Machine Gun Fellatio), someone who’s more from singing, and someone who’s done a lot more spoken word (Edwina Blush).”
As for Hughes, her background is theatre. “I’m all about odd characters who find themselves in weird situations. I like making caricatures everyone knows. They’re all a bit like me,” she admits. “They’re inspired by things I think I’m not, but when I play them I realise, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ That repressed secretary is me, or that vocal teacher; that enormous old queen that laughs her head off is also a bit of me.”
Six Quick Chicks’ Red Rattler show promises to be a wild one, filled with the theatrical wiles of Hughes, Knievel and Lucy Suze Taylor, Sydney burlesque babes Imogen Kelly and Lillian Starr, and the wordy ways of Blush.
“The Red Rattler show will be a big, fun night,” Hughes delights. “We’re going to have a band on at the end of the night too – White Knuckle Fever, which is one of the chicks, Celia Curtis, and Ross Johnston, our stage manager. We’ve played Red Rattler before. It was a predominately lesbian audience. They loved it.”
What: Six Quick Chicks
Where: Red Rattler, Marrickville
When: February 19
More: Additional shows feat. Christa Hughes at Slide Bar on Feb 23 & March 3 See sixquickchicks.com / mardigras.org.au