Briefs, the multi-talented and multi-award-winning Australian company of ‘gay themed’ and radically, fiercely, camp circus performers who have pitched up at The South Bank’s London Wonderground as part of an extensive tour which has taken in, amongst other places, a very well received stint at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, should be just the thing on a bleak autumn night to set the pulses racing.
They didn’t set my pulses racing, however, and in spite of their artistry, athleticism, the beautiful costumes, the great ensemble work, and for the most part individual charisma and downright sexiness of the performers, I was left on more than one occasion looking at my watch to wonder how much more we had to sit through.
Things didn’t begin at all well. For a start, we had to queue for over half an hour waiting to be seated, in unnumbered seating – why in this day and age unnumbered seating? Surely they must know how many seats they have and what the layout will be – and treated like cattle going into the slaughterhouse. When we did eventually get seated the show then inexplicably didn’t begin until a further quarter of an hour after the advertised start time of 9.15pm, and no explanation was given, which was just another two fingers up to the poor audience who by that time were, to say the least, restive.
The show started with a variation on the opening chapter of HG Well’s War of the Worlds, which morphed into the opening number. Part Las Vegas Showgirl, part fierce catwalk show, part strip routine, it involved the troupe in a well choreographed spot of hen-party-type titillation as they progressed, behind large white ostrich feather fans, from their already scanty outerwear to their…briefs. Geddit? All to a mash up of INXS and Pump Up The Jam.This was the level we were going to be at…and it was very loud.
Clearing things away, the ‘host’ took over. A man so charisma free – Fez Faanana, a large unfunny concoction in high heels and much needed corset – that I seriously wondered whether he’d just walked in off the street and donned the costume or had actually been involved with the show before. My partner, a New Zealander, wondered if his attempts at humour would have been better appreciated in the antipodes, but we both agreed it didn’t travel at all well.
When the acts did start, however they ranged from the ‘extremely talented’ to the ‘why are you here’.
I won’t spoil the show by giving everything away, but as the performers take on multiple personae, perhaps a small character sketch of each. The unfunny Fez Faanana you’ll have gathered.
First up afterwards was Ben Lewis, who appears in multiple guises, but is primarily an athlete, ‘rolling’ effortlessly up and down straps to the top of the tent, and proving elsewhere that he is as at home with gymnastics as he is aerial gymnastics, but rather serious.
After another outing of Fez, we had the baby of the troupe – we were told he is only 19 – Louis Biggs, who it has to be said was very popular with the crowd. Possessed of a multitude of acrobatic skills, as well as the more ‘esoteric’ ability of being able to do a Rubik’s Cube in front of a live audience in a fairly short time, Louis has charm, buckets of Charisma.
Next along the ‘Evil Hate Monkey’ – name unknown, whose activities range from charming to extremely gross, and astonishingly versatile. This is a man who does a whole section of the show in ballet pumps ‘en point’. Very impressive.
Next along, Dallas Dellaforce, possessing no discernable talent for anything other than costume design and being able to mime along to a backing track. The costumes are stunningly realised throughout, though I was at a loss to see the point of including Dellaforce in the show. As a way of obtaining an Australian Arts council grant, perhaps?
Finally, the undoubted star of the show, Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill. A truly astonishing performer who managed to light up the stage every time he appeared, and who provided the finale, which I won’t give away, but let’s just say, I and my partner were wet afterwards…
Overall there were moments of beauty, and moments which were extremely offensive. Parts which were very funny and parts which dragged terribly. All in all, a mixed bag ranging from the incredible to the obscene, from the stunningly beautiful, to the frankly degrading, but as my partner pointed out, Australia’s a big place. Perhaps that’s what it’s like.