We at The Australian Sex Party love it when things get a bit weird. We like pushing the boundaries and opening people's eyes to new and unusual things. We believe in freedom of expression, in freedom of sexuality and freedom to be who you are and do what you love doing. This is part of the reason we are so excited to have Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz coming to Melbourne Fringe to perform their fantastic show Apocostrip Wow. And the other part of the reason is that they are both bloody cool people with amazing stories, skills and lives.
Mat is a thalidomide baby who has shortened arms as a result and goes by the stage name The Freak (with nicknames of Seal Boy or Flipper Boy), but don't think this disability has stopped him from living a full life.
He is trained in martial arts with a second degree black belt, is an accomplished drummer and keyboardist and has been performing on stage and screen since 1996 in everything from documentaries to mainstream TV shows.
Julie is a multi-award winning burlesque performer based in New York City who has performed in burlesque and cabaret shows around the world to critical acclaim and who has been seen in everything from Gossip Girl to playing a lesbian zombie nun in a Lola Rocknrolla film, Night of the Living Gay.
They truly are a remarkable couple and, not only that, after a chat over the phone yesterday to tell me all about their upcoming show, I also discovered that on top of their fantastically full resumes, they're both super nice people to boot.
Meeting at the Coney Island Sideshow (the last permanent sideshow in America) in 2006 proved to be a life-changing event for both of them.
“I was hosting a series called Burlesque at the Beach,” say Mat. “And Julie was one of the performers. It was certainly lust at first sight. There was a mutual artistic attraction and, after talking for a bit, most of the nails were set in the coffin of love. We knew very little about each other so it was a shock and a delight for us both.”
It wasn't an easy run, though, with both performers living in other parts of the world and both of them being married to other people at the time.
“I was coming to the end of a sixteen year marriage where my wife and I had basically grown apart, and Julie's husband was in the process of coming out as gay, and we didn't see each other again for about a year”
But throughout that year the pair were in constant email contact which, as Mat puts it, “involves the brain and the mind, which is absolutely lethal, and over the course of that year we fell deeply in love with each other.”
The talented pair have so many different projects going on, Julie works as a choreographer and director in NY and also tours permanently with a high end burlesque troupe, while Mat has jobs that take him from theatre performances off Broadway, to soap opera sets in Ireland, and as a result they found that they were spending far too much time apart.
Because of this, they decided to collaborate together and produce shows such as Beauty and the Beast, The Freak and The Showgirl and Apocostrip Wow. These joint collaborations mean they finally get to spend some proper time together both working and enjoying their relationship and being “disgustingly happy in love”.
So what is Apocostrip Wow, and what can Australian audiences expect from it?
“There's a fair smattering of nudity,” says Mat. “As well as lots of comedy, very sexy movement and dance, lots of confrontational moments and some of the old freak show stuff”
Based around the idea of the Mayan prophesy that the world will end in December 2012, Apocostrip Wow takes a look at the culture of terror around the globe.
“We want to shock people as well as be entertaining,” Mat explains. “The little kids in us love to shock, love to surprise, but doing things just for shock value on its own isn't good enough. We like to house it in something meaningful and challenge people's assumptions and perceptions whether it be about disability, or nudity, or women, or sexuality. People really can be so shocked at the notion that a disabled person wants to have sex or be sexy, we like to challenge that and get people thinking and involved.”
Audience participation is a large part of their shows and Mat tells me that he finds Australian audiences to be some of the most open and receptive to their acts.
“Australians seem to appreciate us the most. I think it's because Aussies are very liberal-minded and open to sex and sexuality. Also I think they like to get a bit crazy. We've had audience volunteers taking their clothes off, making out with us, with each other, even with their own siblings, it's just mad!”
And according to Mat, this show has some great moments for the audience to get involved too.
“It's fantastic,” he enthuses. “We have this really, really good bit at the end where...” And then he stops and laughs. “Actually, no. I'm not going to ruin it for you. You will just have to come along and see it.”
And see it I plan to. And you should as well! Apocostrip Wow plays at The Gershwin Room at the Espy in St Kilda on February 21 and 22 so go and book your tickets now and get along to some crazy, freaky fun at Fringe.
(Mat and Julie will also be performing the show in Sydney at the Gaelic Hotel on 29th Feb & 1st March and on 3rd March at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane.)