Review by Maree Paliouras
Performed by Isis Avis Loren, a name with such regality that it precedes itself whether or not you’ve heard it before, Ballads & Ballgowns is simultaneously exactly what the title leads you to believe and so much more.
Isis takes to the intimate MC Showroom stage to perform emotionally charged lip syncs to a variety of ballads, from Celine to Adele, while dressed in some of the most awe-inspiring gowns that audiences will ever have the honour of seeing. There truly is something for everybody within this show, Isis says it herself. There is a level of versatility within the songs she performs that truly allows for each and every member of the audience to find one to wholly connect to.
But that’s just the show at its surface level. Between songs, Isis speaks to the audience about her life, her struggles, and the issues that matter to her. Changes of the space are also accompanied by videos of Isis walking around Melbourne looking beyond glamorous and -for lack of better words- perfect while a voiceover provides further insight into the life of the artist. This creates a real sense of humanity and makes connecting with the performance and performer so much easier. It is also this personalisation that sets Ballads & Ballgowns apart from other drag shows. It’s a performance of passion and glamour at its finest while also allowing a deeper glimpse into what the seemingly infallible artists go through and there is something incredibly beautiful about that alone.
During her numbers, Isis holds the stage with such power and poise, she seems so confident and at ease in the space and the resulting performances are so clearly charged by her passion for what she does. She has the ability to connect with every word of every song and deliver numbers that feel as if they were made for her, to a level that makes me almost convinced that the first person who ever wrote a ballad did so with Isis in mind.
While admittedly, Isis could walk onto the stage in a shapeless sack and I would be too in awe of her beauty and her as a performer and a presence to even truly notice, Isis utilises her sense of fashion to contribute to the high calibre of this show. Isis knows fashion and knows herself and that is so clear in the gowns that she presents throughout the show and the way that she wears them. Each and every one is jaw-dropping and she wears them with confidence and with love. They are also styled with such a careful eye, each one paired with immaculately styled hair that is impressive on its own, and even more so on Isis. Perhaps equally impressive is the speed at which Isis is able to pull off changes between the various looks she presents, the hair in particular.
The gowns are truly just what makes this incredible show feel complete. The way they move adds an extra layer to the performances, and the way that they meet the stage lights emphasises both the gowns and the show’s technical aspects. Most importantly, they show off Isis’s sense of style and who she is as an artist in a way that, when combined with the way she speaks of her journey with fashion, is so emotional and so crucial to the show.
Isis is a powerhouse of a performer and Ballads & Ballgowns is a beautiful display of glamour and the art of drag in its purest form; it is truly a must-see and a highlight of this year’s Midsumma program.