Mata Hari, a woman of enviable sexual freedom in the pre- First World War period was a figurehead for female empowerment. She danced and schmoozed her way through social scene to scene, contracting the dreaded syphilis, which later complicated her fate. Her children, born with the disease were incredibly ill; her son Norman died, her daughter Jeanne passing shortly after from similar complications. She fled to Paris where she bathed in splendid praise, she cavorted and flaunted her body, but as the War approached, her carefree attitude was interpreted as dangerously promiscuous. Entangled in a web of spying missions both for France and Germany, she consequentially found herself on the road to execution.
This story is impassioned and unforgiving. And so Aletia Upstairs embarks on her one-woman show, “Mata Hari”, unravelling the secrets, the sexuality and finally the dissolution of a young woman’s journey from stardom to destruction. Interspersed with songs and dancing, Aletia sets the scene for a cabaret rollercoaster. The research that went into this production was phenomenal; there lacked no essential detail about Hari’s gloriously turbulent life, the story felt cemented, not overcrowded with superfluous factual information, making Aletia relatable, Hari’s pain palpable.
Aletia commanded the audience’s attention, maintaining unfaltering eye contact, addressing each of us as though speaking from the disillusioned voice of Mata herself. She represented cabaret within cabaret, this mise en abyme acting as further insight into the glamorous yet burdened life of a woman destroyed by war and propaganda. Aletia has a beautiful voice; it is nuanced and soulful. Aletia danced and sang from the heart; she coveted the perfect balance between sexuality and sadness. Beautifully written and directed by Dean Stalham; this was a triumphant and truthful representation of Mata Hari’s life.
For more events at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern go to their Hot August Fringe website: