High energy, high drama and high expectations
By Myron My
In 2013, I had the good fortune to be working front-of-house when Spiegelworld brought its show Empire to Melbourne’s Crown Casino. I was able to watch repeatedly a troupe of world-class artists performing in highly skillful and often death-defying acts, which also proved to be an exhilarating experience for audience members. Fast-forward two years, and Spiegelworld have returned their Spiegeltent to the Crown Casino rooftop with their new show Absinthe.
Inspired by cabarets of late 19th-century Europe, Absinthe is a spectacular and intimate performance of burlesque, circus, song and dance with enough variety to appeal to everyone. However, given the theme of the show and the physique and strengths of the performers, there is also quite a bit of flesh on display and plenty of sexual innuendo and some not-so-subtle sexual humour by the hosts, The Gazillionaire and his sidekick Penny Pibbets.
Now I understand that, given the nature of the show, there is a need to be cheeky and funny and even controversial but for me these hosts lacked the warmth and the familiarity that was accomplished so well by the hosts in Empire. This led to some highly awkward moments, such as the performers pulling two males out of the audience and having them give a lap dance to a female audience member. It was extremely uncomfortable to watch as these men took off their clothes, touched her, and shook their ass in the woman’s face. Fortunately for everyone involved, it went relatively smoothly the night I attended, but looking around the audience there were clearly a number of people who did not find this funny in the slightest.
The acts themselves however were both mesmerising and frightening at the same time. Los Dos Tacos (Belarus duo Aliasandra Yurkavets and Andrei Sizonenka) and their dramatic parallel bars act was by far the highlight of the evening, with the artists performing extraordinary tricks where landing even a centimeter off would have proved disastrous for them and quite possibly for the audience. Another personal favourite was the Duo Strap dance routine by Americans Jacob Oberman and Maika Isogawa, which may have allowed our hearts to stop racing, but then displayed some beautiful moments on stage with aerial ballet.
Sadly, for me the high-wire finale by The Frat Pack lacked the suspense and ‘wow’ factor required to end the night on a high. There were stronger, more thrilling acts that were performed earlier in the evening that I feel would have been more suited for the finale spot.
Although it’s no Empire, Absinthe still manages to amaze, excite, and leave you with your mouth hanging open in astonishment. These are performers who are at the top of their game and it is probably one of the few chances you’ll ever get to see them perform. Despite its flaws, Absinthe is still a theatrical highlight of my year so far.
Venue: Rooftop at Crown Casino, Southbank, 3006.
Season: Until 17 May
Tickets: From $56.07 to $157
Image by Mark Turner