Cherry 2000

Burlesque truly has stood the test of time. While our world has changed beyond recognition over the last 500 years, it seems we've managed to find a place in mainstream society for this sexiest of performance arts in a time not known for its appreciation of the past. In fact, Melburnians more than most have embraced the resurgence of burlesque, with a bevy of clubs and artists around the city dedicated to the movement. Three years ago, Scarlett (real name: Sheree Matthews) began experimenting with burlesque after spending most of her life devoted to the much more respectable ballet, and hasn't looked back. Launching her own company aptly titled Scarlett Productions with the 1980s stage extravaganza Cherry 2000, Scarlett is just as surprised as anyone at how her life is panning out.

Like most females, Scarlett began doing ballet when she was a young girl. Unlike most though, she didn't give it up after a few classes. In fact, she dedicated the next 15 years of her life to the dance. “I started quite young like a lot of people do,” Scarlett recalls. “But I ended up at McDonald College in Sydney. Right from Year 7, I did two hours of training every day along side my school work, as well as after school. I finished school in Year 10 to do full time training, and ended up in Germany training 10 hours a day, six days a week. So yeah it was quite...I mean, that was meant to be my career.” After all that though, Scarlett eventually realised that she didn't actually want to be a ballerina. Of retiring, Scarlett simply says, “I just decided in the end that it wasn't for me. I think my body was just a bit tired.”


Returning to Australia, Scarlett began readjusting to normal life, becoming a university student and finally exploring her passion for interior design. But they do say 'once a performer, always a performer', and Sheree Matthews the ballerina eventually find herself back on the stage, this time as the blood-haired bombshell Scarlett. “It was a bit of an odd step into it,” she muses. “I needed a little extra spurt of creativity into my life, and so I went to some burlesque classes. I wanted to do something a bit crazy and something very different to my ballet training, which certainly it is. I eventually found myself on the stage, and then it picked up really quickly.” So quickly in fact, that it soon became a full time job. Alongside her study, Scarlett began performing two to three times a week throughout Melbourne's flourishing burlesque scene.


Quickly developing a following as the prima ballerina of burlesque, Scarlett still uses her point shoes and incorporates a lot of ballet into her routines, which she attributes to helping her get work and exposure. But the similarities between ballet and burlesque are limited. “The transition was really interesting because performing on the stage for ballet, you're quite distant and detached from the audience, whereas in burlesque it's all about getting in people's faces and really eliciting a reaction. It challenges you more as a performer, in a different way.” When talking about the transition between ballet and burlesque, Scarlett adds, “It was actually a real surprise getting into performing that much again but as soon as it happened it felt natural, albeit in a much different realm.”


As Scarlett's final year as an interior design student came to an end though, she inevitably began to look toward the future. Finding that ballet was no longer written there, the choice for Scarlett was now: burlesque or interior design? The answer, it seems, is attempting to amalgamate the two into one venture: Scarlett Productions. Using both her knowledge of design and her passion for the stage, Scarlett is now focused on bringing to life shows of her own. Not just as the performer and producer, but as the writer, the choreographer, and of course the set and prop designer. Perhaps not using her interior design knowledge as was expected, Scarlett concedes, “I keep coming back to performance. I just can't escape it.”


In association with Red Bennies, and inspired by the cult ‘80s sci-fi film of the same name, Cherry 2000 promises not only burlesque, but circus, cabaret and even fireworks. Scarlett intentionally chose something as ambitious and multi-faceted as Cherry 2000 to launch her production career. “I wanted to attempt to break away from your standard burlesque show set up where it's just one act after another with a very general theme. I really wanted to put more of a show into it. Every scene is considered, and there's more of a storyline.”


The storyline in this case being of a future where android babes reign supreme and love is, quite literally, a battlefield. And while the show is based on the film, it is not a direct stage rendition of it. Scarlett, who is also the lead dancer, explains, “We've taken a few key scenes from the movie and re-enacted them, while also fleshing out the idea of android love, and of romance having died. Basically, we wanted to celebrate the film in all its 1980s glory, but we've taken a bit of creative license that allows us to throw a few other vaudevillian acts in there as well,” Scarlett exhales. “It's going to be a big one. I'm excited.”



Cherry 2000 hits Red Bennies on Monday November 5.