Flippers and strippers - Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz
From hosting a stadium of 62,000 people to being a 'performing freak' alongside his burlesque-star wife Julie Atlas Muz, it's been a hell of a year for unique performer Mat Fraser
It's been an incredible year for self-declared 'performing crip' Mat Fraser. He has launched 'Sleaze', one of the funnest, filthiest strip nights to hit the London scene in years. He has left dropped jaws in his wake with superlatively tasteless turns at The Box and the Double R Club. He married his partner, American neo-burlesque pioneer Julie Atlas Muz, at the Coney Island site where they met six years ago. Oh, and he hosted the pre-television portion of the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony for a stadium audience of 62,000, then played drums on the brilliant rendition of Ian Dury's 'Spasticus Autisticus' near the top of the show.
'It was incredible,' says Fraser. 'To manhandle the first Mexican wave, to just be there for the amazing spectacle. Hanging out with Sir Ian McKellen backstage and bumping into Professor Hawking was all in a day's work - albeit a fucking weird day's work…'
He's barely had the chance to catch his breath, and won't get one anytime soon. Fraser and Atlas Muz are putting the finishing touches to 'The Freak and the Showgirl: Apocastrip Wow!' - a show that has played in Melbourne and Coney Island and promises to be a highlight of the London Wonderground season.
A cavalcade of 'flippers and strippers' with a dash of Mayan prophecy, it showcases the pair's shared delight in scandalising audiences by using their bodies as the site of outrageous performances laced with political provocations. Radical accessibility, humane eroticism and endearing self-mockery collide in turns that might involve out-of-control sexuality, jarringly violent motifs or disarming fragility.
'One of my acts recreates Sealo, the Seal Boy, a genuine old freak-show act from the '30s who had small arms like me,' says Fraser. 'And Julie's doing a number inspired by the Fukushima meltdown called “The Little Girl from Chernobyl”, a blacklight striptease number where things go in and out of her body.' You can also expect 'a song from Mr Pussy' and a penis on stage. 'It's a big message of love, life, the body in all its glorious forms, tolerance, liberal sexual values, and most of all, comedy, fun, laughs, sexiness and sideshow. Come to be freaked out, tuned in and sexed up.'
Such antics come just as naturally to Atlas Muz, who appeared in Mathieu Amalric's burlesque-themed feature 'On Tour', has been selected for New York's Whitney Biennial and was both Miss Exotic World and Miss Coney Island in 2006. She and Fraser met at the US resort when sword-swallower the Great Fredini and the Island's self-appointed 'Mayor' Dick D Zigun put them on the same bill. Zigun married the couple this summer in front of guests including Amanda Palmer and Kim Cattrall, and the ceremony featured bridesmaids dressed as zombie schoolgirls. Their bona fide sideshow credentials lend an extra patina to the Wonderground's current Coney Island theme.
The pair are already at work on a new show, 'Beauty and the Beast', which they plan to tour next year. But before getting too immersed in that, Fraser might just allow himself a moment to bask. 'This has been an amazing culmination of 20 years of work. To be the presenter for 62,000 people and be a performing freak all in the same week - it might be challenging to some people but for me that's weird and wonderful and beautiful.'