In only a few short weeks Midsumma Festival will kick off its 2021 season, with a plethora of events taking over Melbourne from the 19th of April to the 5th of May. However, one show in particular has upset a number of individuals within our local LGBTQI communities and has left the performer at the centre of the show, Fabio Cattafi, to deal with accusations of racism and most alarmingly blackface.

The show itself A Night With Tina was set to open at infamous Chapel St establishment Chasers Night Club, which is owned by the same company behind Inflation Nightclub, a venue which has been known to court its own controversy in recent times. The show stands cancelled for now, with Cattafi promising to return at a later date.

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The show’s description on Eventbrite said, “Fabio’s obsession with Tina Turner began at the tender age of 14, when he put on a show for his large Italian family and sang Proud Mary into a mop and bucket.” The description continues by saying “Transformed into Tina, thanks to handmade copies of original Tina Turner costumes, Fabio’s flawless look is enough to convince anyone that Tina was right there on stage.”

Yet the fact remains, we are talking about a performer of European descent, playing the role of a women whose father was an African American Baptist deacon and whose mother was a farmer of part-Cherokee and Navajo descent.

Fabio Cattafi

Despite numerous attempts to set up an interview with Cattafi in recent days Star Observer was unable to speak with the performer firsthand to try and understand their position on the matter, leaving us only able to refer back to a statement Cattafi released through his own social media channels, in which he claims “I’m a performer paying tribute to a woman I adore, admire and love. My show is fun and an uplifting celebration for us all, but some people have turned it into a political or race issue which couldn’t be any further from my artistic intention & passion.

“My show is not designed to offend anyone, if anything it’s designed to celebrate an icon and her culture as well as uplift and celebrate life.”

Irrespective of his intentions, however noble, in 2021, it is simply not good enough, to hide behind such excuses, particularly when issues of representation are dominating conversations within and outside of the creative industries.

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Speaking with Star Observer, Karen Bryant, CEO of Midsumma Festival, told us that the festival team “had a number of  conversations with [Cattafi] where we sought to provide him with any information that would support him to do [the show] himself, selling tickets through his own ticketing platform”.

“We did do this, after a number of discussions with [Cattafi] and after we received significant complaints from a number of people in our community who were feeling great offence towards marketing material of the show which was considered to be black or brownface.

“We have a policy in place that requires that Midsumma has no events, promotion, or marketing that could be seen as either discriminatory towards others or likely to cause harm or offence to parts of our community in relation to current contemporary expectations. Unfortunately, we did try and find a way to resolve this with the producer, but it was unable to be resolved.

“The performer believed the material was not offensive and didn’t mind that other people did take offence. We couldn’t move forward with a show where a portion of our community felt discriminated or offended by that content.”

“We work across diverse communities, we recognise there is always a diversity of opinions that exists within that, but Midsumma has to be a place where everybody needs to feel safe and supported,” added Bryant.

Fabio Cattafi, in an online post, vowed to present the work at a later date.

Midsumma has now removed the event listing from its festival website and program, with Cattafi vowing to present the work at a later date. Whether or not he wakes up to the offence he has caused, remains to be seen.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

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