The Wau Wau Sisters

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The Wau Wau Sisters


The Wau Wau Sisters (pronounced Vow Vow) are very close, both figuratively and physically

The Wau Wau Sisters (pronounced Vow Vow) are very close, both figuratively and physically (in their act), which is good as you wouldn’t want to be angry with your half-sister while she is pouring red wine on your breasts in front of a room full of people… it could get pretty awkward. Just how close are they?

The answer: conceived during the same threesome-close. "They don’t think there is anything weird about us doing it together but our mums are a little prudish, surprisingly, even though we were born out of a threesome," explains Tanya Gagne, on half of the half-sister duo. "I think they are joyful that we are so free and that they raised these women into the world who do their thing despite what anyone thinks, that we are strong and have all these crazy ideas. But sometimes they are like ‘I wish you wouldn’t say that.’ Our dad totally loves what we do, to the point where it makes other people uncomfortable."

The Wau Wau sisters do lewd, they do rude and they sure as hell do nude. Their brand of bawdy burlesque has been dropping jaws as they drop their drawers across Australia as they tour their latest show The Last Supper, which will be gracing the stage of The Famous Spiegeltent. "What people think is burlesque nowadays is unfortunately just a bunch of tassel twirling and G-strings," Tanya complains." I think a lot of people know burlesque as a woman stripping off her clothes. Back in the day burlesque was a three or four-act show which included skills, comedy, live music and stripping, and all those things had to do with politics or something relevant to what was going on it the world, a commentary. It was very theatrical. Our work is akin to that old idea of burlesque, like old vaudeville crashing into a disco crashing into a music festival crashing into a play."

On stage as The Wau Wau Sisters there is very little they don’t do, they sing, play guitars, acrobatics, tumbling, trapeze and getting the girls out, but there is more to their act than simple shock value, even though there is plenty of that as well. "We face of some pretty extreme political, social and environmental challenges these days," Tanya says of the themes of the show. "It is as if The Wau Wau Sisters are about to host the Last Supper, the last meal in the world as we know it and what it would be like. There would be plenty of food for everybody. Everyone would be welcome at our table, no matter what religion they practice or what colour their skin was, or who they like to fuck. Whoever they are, whatever age, everyone is welcome at our table. We explore different realms of religion and spirituality. It goes from the roots of Catholicism all the way back to Pagan days, back when they church and astrology were connected. I think we are giving everyone a little something to grasp on or relate to.

"We also invite the audience to come up and join our world, which is place where everyone would be free to be who they are and love who they love and explore different sides of themselves. Our world is a world without shame, a world without massive amounts of greed and grief. A happy world."

Tanya chats in almost stereotypical brassy New Yorker show-business style: she is super-peppy and bouncy, her sentences punctuated by laughter. It is no surprise to find out she was the type of child that produced her own living room productions. "My sister and I did not grow up together; we have the same Dad but different mums," she explains. "So we grew up in the houses of our Mums, which were in different places. But we both grew up with very similar interests in gymnastics, theatre and dance; we both did a lot of sports. We both used to put on little shows for the neighbourhood in the living room. We have a lot of funny stories being eight, ten and twelve years old, making programs and inviting the neighbours and our mums dressed up in costumes and handing out food. So that is a pretty funny synchronicity that we both share. It’s funny because we realised that the show we do now is just an adult version of those shows we used to put on in our living room."

The girls grew up moved to New York where they both ended up working together in the same circus and dance companies. We realised we both wrote kooky songs and we both had a comedic side that wasn’t getting utilised, we weren’t getting our yah yahs out in these companies," Tanya says of the original spark to create their own show. "Our first gig a two and a half year residence at an arts space in Brooklyn. It was a free weekly show

Two half sisters with a bunch of different skills up for a really good time. Every week we would make up four or five new acts. We really got our feet wet in terms or working together and making shows. We just had. So. Much. Fun."

This is where the name came from. "It is Bertolt Brecht reference," Tanya confesses. "He wrote this play with a character who is a strong man called Mr Wau, and he’s followed around by a bunch of wandering minstrels and freaks. We kinda of think as ourselves as his bastard step-children."

From that residency they built a show that would see them wow audiences at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. "That show that we did was just so wacky," Tanya laughs. "I think we did 12 acts crammed into one hour with like 11 costume changes. I think we were just trying to give the audience a taste of what we were capable of, which was total chaos and mayhem backed up with some pretty great skills. It was really like a rainbow or a fireworks display of what we do, but it didn’t really have any cohesion. I wouldn’t called it a "best of’ show it was more like an hors d’oeuvre plate of The Wau Wau Sisters. This new show is far more theatrical."

Be warned, viewing their act is no passive experience, this is The Last Supper, and that means there is a fair chance that 12 audience members will become involved at some stage of the evening. "Coming to our show, you may find yourself very surprised and pleased to end up on stage with us, and having the time of your life," Tanya says. "We don’t have many boundaries, so an audience can expect to partake in the making of this show and the party that is this show. A lot of people hate audience participation, I understand, because a lot of it isn’t very fun or clever. We are hoping that someone who we involve will have fun, even if they don’t think they will, you might surprise yourself or whoever your with."

So comedy, nudity, foul language and acrobatics, if might not be a family show but it really does have something for everyone. "You will have the time of your life," Tanya spruiks. "You will have the feast of your life. It’s a smorgasbord. It won’t be like anything you have ever seen before, I guarantee a wild, wild ride for your senses."

The Wau Wau Sisters’ The Last Supper will be putting it all on show at The Famous Spiegeltent in The Arts Centre Forecourt March 1 through 6. Tickets $25 – $30.