The Empire Strips Back: Star Wars With A Naughty Twist

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'The Empire Strips Back' 'The Empire Strips Back' Image © Leslie Liu

Prepare your lightsabers, 'Star Wars' is getting a makeover and it's not what you'd expect.

'The Empire Strips Back' takes the space phenomenon to a new dimension, starring seductive Stormtroopers and jiggling Jedi.

Audiences can expect a rowdy night of fun for the show's biggest Australian tour yet, in a masterclass on both the removal of clothing and one of the world's most recognised franchises.

Here, the show's creator Russall Beattie answers some questions about the show.

It's clear from the title… This is a straight up parody of 'Star Wars'. Where did the idea of stripping and Stormtroopers formulate for you?!
For most of my life I’ve been a fan of burlesque and 'Star Wars'. I’m a geek at heart, so when it came time to do a fun burlesque show this idea was the first thing that popped into my head.

You've even taken this show overseas… How did it go?
Better than we could ever have hoped for! The American audiences embraced us like we were one of their own, so much so that we are looking at relocating the show there from 2019. Once we took the show to the USA we’ve been able to go from strength to strength.

EmpireStrips JoshGroom
Image © Josh Groom

So tell us about the show itself. Apart from the obvious, what else can audiences look forward to?
It’s a non-political show; just two hours of pure escapism. The biggest thing that people find when they see the show is our humour and creativity, seeing how much effort we have put into our costumes and props, but still being able to keep our humour. We like to think of the show as a children’s show for adults.

How long has this show been around and what has changed since it began?
The show began six years ago in a small venue for 100 people. Since then it has grown into a full scale production which averages 2,000 people in the audience per show. Originally all the costumes were made in my garage from old toys and plumbing material but now we are able to work with some of the creatives who worked on the actual 'Star Wars' films to produce our props and costumes, which help give that sense of realism that people seem to love.

EmpireStrips 1

What interests you about the art of burlesque?
What interests me is the versatility of it. Burlesque is like water, you can put it into any vessel and it takes a different form. It can take on whatever stage it’s on; it can be a rock show, an old cabaret, a classic fan dance or whatever you wish it to be. I also love the sense of danger and performance that comes with it, you never know what is going to happen and sometimes things don’t go to plan. We also really enjoy the reaction of the audience to something that they may not have seen, or thought of before.

And, of course, are you a big fan of 'Star Wars'?
I am. I am a fan of pop culture in general but I was one of the kids who made a lightsaber out of Christmas wrapper cardboard rolls, and this love and imagination of 'Star Wars' has obviously continued into adulthood. This goes a long way with the production and creativity of the show because, being a fan, I know what other adult fans like and want to see in a show like this.

What's in the pipeline for you? Are you looking at creating parodies of this nature for other popular films?
We have a lot going on at the moment! We are taking this show to North America, South America and Europe in 2019. We have also been teasing doing a 'Ghostbusters'-style burlesque show for a few years but need to find the time to fit it in, and we will be rebuilding our original contemporary burlesque, 'Jaded Vanities', into a new show for 2019.

The Empire Strips Back Tour Dates

11/12 Jan – Regal Theatre (Perth)
17 Jan – Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide)
18 Jan – Palais Theatre (Melbourne)
19 Jan – Canberra Theatre (Canberra)
31 Jan-2 Feb – Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
9 Feb – Civic Theatre (Newcastle)
15/16 Feb – Enmore Theatre (Sydney)


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