By: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Photos by: Daniel Iglesias
Martini Cherry Furter is someone you notice immediately. It’s the presence that takes over a room, the softness in her smile and cheeky glimpses in her eyes. Besides that, it’s telling a story on stage, and the stories she tells – if so singing, dancing or even setting herself on fire.
Growing up she came from a family with a big interest in arts and culture. As a kid she wanted to be an architect or a director of photography, although those options weren't really available on the island of Martinique.
”Where I grew up, those things weren’t an option unfortunately. Therefore, I tried the other side of the camera, and discovered that acting came naturally to me. I enjoyed it and therefore kept doing it in various ways.”
Growing up, Martini was basically the same person she is today; the interests didn’t change; they just took place in other countries, and took on new forms as she started to travel.
”As a kid I was basically the same person that I am today – and everybody thought I was gay. I loved dressing up, cheering up my peers, dancing salsa with my parents, singing joyfully and I didn't have to worry about money at that time.”
As she grew up and started theater high school, she found a second home there.
”I actually slept on every stage that I was playing, I was a sponge. At the time, Yoshvani Medina had directed a mind-blowing version of The Vagina Monologues, which actually turned out to be illegal, and they presented the last rehearsal in the theater of my high school.” says Martini and continues;
”Yosh had a huge influence on the audience of that night, teachers, and students, which turned out to be a casting for him. A few months later, most of us were attending a modern theater class in high school, meeting companies like Théâtre du Soleil, studying Chekov and on the other side, the controversial Studio Théâtre SI that he opened after that. Those moments are definitely influencing what I do today.”
When seeing Martini Cherry perform, it’s not only the presence with the audience, but also the awareness of what she wants to deliver and what story she wants to tell, and how she will tell it.
”The first year and a half in the studio, we worked exclusively on the key playwriting elements: the Body, Space and Voice. The training process was about mastering our main tools, being an actor and directing an actor. Cuban theater has an interesting picky influence from the Soviet Union, both understood very quickly that entertainment is a weapon, and made symbols and polysemy a central spine in their productions. It is all about Actions.”
Cherry Martini spent six years with the theater group, preparing for the Theater Conservatory in Paris. After leaving Paris for Lyon where the love for theater took on new forms.
”I started evolving a love- hate relationship to theater and started an affair with burlesque. And so far, here I am, silly enough to think that I can still apply all of that while showing my ass.”
Not only is she cheeky on stage, but the name she chose for herself is also showing off her playful side in a subtle way.
”I chose Martini Cherry Furter to piss off the graphic designers with a long name.”
In 2016 she hosted a show for Bana Banana, in Berlin, although it was a real challenge, as it was hosted in English to a German crowd.
”It was a fantastic experience, and I fell in love with Berlin the very first second. I knew a lot of amazing people in the city already and that made this part easier. When I came it was the Berlin Burlesque Week and that also added some extra fun to the experience. The first night, we attended a friend's birthday which ended in the most epic way. Cake and ass, what a beautiful way to celebrate life! Berlin stole my heart that night.”
”I then decided to move to the city as I needed a change. Berlin was, and still is the Capital of Burlesque in Europe, so I gave it a try and here I am with less stress, a master of my time and a bit more money in my bank account."
Then of course, not every week is Burlesque week, and if you live in this city, it’s possible that you can list a few things you’d like to change in it.
”The definition of acceptance, and indifference are broadly understood in Berlin, and it makes everything else tolerable.”
Martini is still living in this city and is known for bringing the heat to the stage, especially with a performance where she’s setting herself on fire.
”In Lyon, I was also working at one of the oldest theaters in France, it burned something like 4 times. Fire was a huge problem in the entertainment industry, that's why there are so many rules about its usage even nowadays. So, I had that in mind when I created this act.”
”I wanted to perform this ceremony where I set my whole body on fire and the challenge was to be able to bring it to as many spaces as possible. I came up with a technique that allows me to perform virtually anywhere and be the only one doing it.”
Besides loving what she does, being a performer, an entertainer, a Madonna, everything she creates also has a political angle to it.