The Dark Prince of Burlesque, Raven, is the Hyde to normality’s Jekyll; that edgy personality that morphs, horrifically, when the clock-strikes, shelling off convention like snakeskin. A dark, made-of-nightmare personality spikes, slicing that fine line between sexuality and terror—making steady eye contact with this unrivaled concentration, this knowledge that yes: this far outside the box, outside of safety, we’ve arrived.
And with the rusty nails sliding deep into his nostrils, and with a whole multitude of bondage situations, of probing deeper into these chaotic sexual daydreams, Raven reveals truths about both his character and about the audience. It’s an intimate conversation, far more complicated and vulnerable and at-times beautiful than any dominant submissive relationship—that, like any art, is up for interpretation.
We were able to sit down with Raven in the days leading up to Berlin Burlesque Week to discuss how he ultimately developed his character—and what happens when Raven comes out to play, even when “normal” should reign. Catch Raven at Der Grüne Engel REVOLution! and Berlin Burlesque Week GALA SPECTACULAR, along with his workshop: WORKSHOPS Berlin Burlesque Week.
Who is Raven?
I am a burlesque performer from Melbourne, Australia who moved to Berlin over a year ago. I am known as the Dark Prince of Burlesque and utilise my background in dance and circus on stage.
Where did the idea of Raven come from?
Raven originated from a show I was involved in called Bathtub Gin; in the show, he was a dark mysterious character who self-sacrificed to save the life of another. After the show was completed. I continued to perform and develop the character to who you see today. Raven has changed a lot but has always maintained some of the original characteristics from the initial beginning.
What are most people inspired by when creating their personal character? And what inspired yours?
Most people take inspiration from elements of interest and passion. I think it’s very different for everyone, for me Raven is an extension of my personality that is heightened. I push all of my mannerisms and characteristics to create something that slightly other worldly.
Why do you think people want to get in-tune with that hidden, wild, crazy persona?
Society expects people to walk a certain line everyday, if you are out of the box, society frowns upon that. People wanting to get in-tune with their inner persona is a way for them to rebel against social norms (In my opinion). We all have a mask we have to wear during the day but at night we can remove them and really push and create something that is different for us.
How can you tell when a character isn’t ‘natural’?
It’s all in the eyes for me; someone who isn’t playing something natural to them won’t be able to make steady eye contact and will look uncomfortable and frightened. It is all in the eyes.
Does Raven change as you change and grow, as well–do you feel called to different elements of that persona?
Raven has definitely changed as I have; it’s a very natural shift for me. Depending on what has been going on that week my performances can be slightly different depending on my energy and mood.
How do you feel when you return to your ‘natural’ state after being in character?
I find it such a simple transition for me. It all starts with the removal of my make up, going for heels to sneakers and getting a beer! Once I have done those three things I am back to the non-performing Raven state. Which I must say is a lot less abrasive!
Do you find elements of ‘Raven’ in your normal life?
Occasionally when someone frustrates me I will bring out some of the more feisty and fierce elements of Raven. I think because Raven is a natural character to me, he is always slipping in and out of my normal life. If I was Raven all the time, though, I probably wouldn’t have any friends!!! He can be a bit of a bitch!
Raven’s dances are very graphic, involving putting nails in nostrils, and bondage. Has anything ever gone wrong on stage?
I once got a blood nose from doing blockhead (putting nails in my nostrils). I have fallen over on stage several times and have dislocated my shoulder once! It’s all part of the parcel of being a performer, especially a performer who is wild and crazy!
What’s the relationship between horror and sex?
For me, it’s the aggression: horror and sex both have aggressive qualities. I love using the fire and aggression you see in horror and emulate it on stage through my routines.
There’s a contradiction to your act: a somehow dominant submissive. Where did that come from, and which best reflects you?
I think that oversimplifies the ideas that I explore. It’s dynamic, and in tone it can be light, dark, edgy, beautiful, strong or appearing vulnerable in any combination, but submissiveness implies a giving up of control that just isn’t there in my work, or in my life.
One of the things I definitely enjoy about Raven is how enigmatic his performances can be and, just like with any art, what people say about it can reveal more about them than it does about me. Performing in front of an audience is just like an intimate conversation. Sometimes you have to make a bold statement, and sometimes you have to gently invite the other person to give up something about themselves. Neither is dominant or submissive, but it’s necessary if you want to keep it interesting.