Sydney Festival: Rizo, Prizmatism

Jackie McMillan
27th Jan 2024

Cabaret requires intimacy. It’s hard to create in a room where the front half is set with lamp-lit bistro tables and chairs and the rear is a grandstand. This was the challenge set for Rizo (Amelia Rose Zirin-Brown) for her second Sydney Festival show, Prizmatism. Zirin-Brown last toured as Lady Rizo for a Sydney Festival show in 2018. Rizo gives it her best effort, pulling out all the well-worn cabaret tropes like entering through the tiered rows of audience at the rear and doing some sometimes awkward pieces of physical interaction with the folks down the front in the victim seats. 

Sydney has had its share of cabaret stars employing audience interaction, with Melissa Madden Gray (Meow Meow) leaping to mind as one of the best, propping herself on a series of male audience members at the Sydney Opera House to ‘help’ her do a solo show with the refrain, ‘I can’t do everything, darling’. Rizo doesn’t quite reach Meow Meow’s heights of exquisite discomfort, with the audience brought along and left panting to hear her sing. Sometimes I wished Rizo would sing to stop her making a clearly uncomfortable female audience member repeatedly slap her across the face in a show that purported to be about the divine feminine. 

Even the divine feminine isn’t new to Sydney audiences. The legendary Annie Sprinkle cut this ground when she toured Sydney in 1996 with Post-Porn Modernist at the Belvoir Street Theatre. Sprinkle, who was also in her forties at the time, didn’t tell us that getting her breasts out on a darkened stage was ‘brave’. In full theatre lights Sprinkle plonked her not inconsiderable appendages on audience members’ heads and posed for photos. I have a polaroid to prove it. Elizabeth Burton invoked the goddess on stage full nude, stripping for Sydney audiences from the 1970s until she was well into her seventies. For me Prizmatism was pastiche so it was hard not to draw comparisons. ‘Love for Sale’ was the highlight of her singing, though fans of Rizo will no doubt like her own songs, like ‘Ink Dip’. But go make up your own mind, there’s one more opportunity to see the show this evening. It has all the elements of good cabaret.