Tag: Melba Spiegeltent

Circus Oz Presents SIDESAULT FESTIVAL

Sheer delight

By Lois Maskiell

Sidesault Festival kicked off with a roaring double bill on Wednesday the 8th of November. This experimental circus festival presented by Circus Oz is showcasing emerging and established circus artists in the wondrous Melba Speigeltent and features a range of independant artists from Melbourne and beyond. Casting Off by Australian troupe, A Good Catch and Unsuitable by Tumble Circus from Belfast certainly delivered the goods on the opening night.

Casting Off.jpg

Casting Off commenced with three performers sitting under a table all the while deliberating how to start their own show. These candid clowns soon took their audience on a ride as absurd as it was touching. The dialogue was fresh, carrying the show along with popping originality. The acrobatics, fast-paced and true to the Australian circus tradition, were pleasingly raw and rough around the edges.

Performers Debra Batton, Sharon Gruenert and Spenser Inwood clearly have a bond that only years of training circus could provide. Debra’s one-liners, planned or improvised were goldmines of laughter. She dropped pearls of nonsensical wisdom, including forgetting what the meaning of life was on top of a three-chair stack. Gruenert threw firey tantrums that could outdo a toddler amidst her air-piercing acrobatics. Finally, the charming Spenser Inwood effortlessly executed an aerial cradle routine, throwing and catching Sharon while jazz scat-singing melodiously.

Casting Off was relaxed, personal and fantastically inappropriate. Not surprising to see these Circus Oz performers pushing their art to new places here in Melbourne.

The ambiance of the Melba Spiegeltent is like no other venue. It’s a space whose magic has been collecting like dust since it was made in Belgium in 1910. The second show on the bill, Unsuitable reflected the facets of this mirrored tent well with its revue-type show consisting of a series of individual acts.

Unsuitable by Tumble Circus premiered at Sidesault Festival, and to say it was welcomed warmly would be an understatement. This full-length show commenced with a short vignette of three mischevieous clowns who liked to kick each others’ butts to psychtrance.

Ken Fanning, Tina Segner and Angelique Ross demonstrated their talent in a series of individual and group acts. All our favourite apparatus took the stage: trapeze, tissue, hula hoops and even a group juggling act with all performers in spangled leotards, platforms and blonde wigs.

Highlights include Tina’s tissue routine performed in motorcycle helmet, Angelique’s poetic tightwire act that told the story of a trip on the metro and featured some edible props, and Ken’s clowning act that proves the art of buffooning is very much alive. He really had the audience in the palm of his hand, eliciting high-pitched cackles with ease.

Sharp, edgy and hilarious: Tumble Circus’s Unsuitable is guaranteed to keep you engaged and laughing.

Supported by the City of Yarra and presented by Circus Oz, Sidesault Festival runs from the 8th to the 18th and is not to be missed. For tickets and more information: http://www.circusoz.com/the-spiegeltent/shows-at-the-melba.html

Image by Rob Blackburn

Melbourne Fringe 2016: UNDERTONE

Musical interaction meets circus innovation

By Myron My

Produced by Black Carnation Productions, Undertone is a circus show that – while presenting some impressive tricks and laughs – also explores the relationship between the body and sound. With a live electronic score, it pushes the boundaries of what circus can be, creating a different show at every performance.

Undertone.jpg

There is a strong physical demand throughout Undertone, that the four performers make seem effortless as they jump through the air, climb on each other and fling their bodies across and under tables. Due to the concentration and focus of these tricks, the performers have also included a good dose of clowning throughout. Under the direction of Avan Whaite, this allows them to break the tension so the audience can breathe calmly, and for their personalities to come through and invite us to create a bond with them.

There are a few mishaps with certain tricks on the night I attended, and it seems at times that while the set-up is there, the follow-through isn’t always a success. However, what does work, and really takes my breath away is the work on the Chinese pole, which is used in various ways, with some acts I have not seen before in circus. Due to the design of the Melba Spiegeltent, you get to see the show from a more intimate viewpoint and acts like the balancing act on rolling tubes become extremely nail-biting, as you see just how near to the edge they roll.

Adding to the “danger” element of Undertone, the electronic soundtrack for the show created by musical director Zoltan Fesco uses live triggering from the performance itself for the audio delights we hear. In doing so, Fesco and the performers are constantly unaware of what could happen next and this unique soundscaping allows for numerous moments of surprise for the audience, the performers and the composer himself.

Undertone may not have the strongest individual acts, but it is one of the more innovative circus shows I’ve seen. With the growing number of circus coming through Melbourne, it’s always great to have your expectations of this art form challenged, and that is where Black Carnation Productions more than excel.

Venue: The Melba Spiegelent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood, 3066
Season: Until 25 September | Sat – Sun 8.30pm, Sun 3:00pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $29 Full | $24 Conc | $22 Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival 

Melbourne Fringe 2016: THE LONELIEST NUMBER

One strong-woman’s strong one-woman show

By Joana Simmons

Hannah Cryle is one impressive woman. She has gutsily broken away from her established career as an ensemble performer and created a solo show debut, The Loneliest Number. Packed with full-power rock numbers and a bunch of nifty tricks, she successfully proves she can do an ensemble show alone.

The Loneliest Number.jpg

Opening with “Don’t Stop Believing” establishes a fantastic anthem for her and the ethos of the show. Her commitment to air instruments is as big and bold as her hair and fluro costume. Hannah is the circus strong-woman; she can ‘base a 3 high’- that is where she stands on the ground with a person standing on top of her shoulders, and another person on top of their shoulders. She tells us how all the cool things she can do require other people to make them truly impressive. Still, we quickly see she is a strong woman in all senses of the phrase and can do plenty of cool things on her own- hula hoops, super skipping and hilarious facial expressions are a few worth noting. Her earnest character is lovable, and she delivers her amusing anecdotes with great timing and skill. The late-night audience members show their support in whoops and laughs, and prove to be the best back up dancers anyone could have asked for. Some small stand-out quirky moments with her beautiful underlying message of respect make it a memorable theatrical experience.

Because of Hannah’s versatility there is a lot of props and ‘stuff’ in this show. She energetically changes from one to another and keeps her friendly chatter going the whole time but some of the transitions were clunky and she was offstage a lot. At ‘half time’ she cleverly gave us something to do, which bought the intimate audience together, and perhaps a few more of these peppered throughout the changes could make them smoother.  I loved how she took her time to catch her breath when she was speaking, but her face and character could be more extreme: a general rule when accompanied by epic rock ballads is: “more is more.”

Hannah Cryle tells us she is “a bit strong, a bit brave” and inspires us to be too. I say she is a lot strong and a lot brave and has a special gift to share. She encourages us to support #ladiesperformingsolo, there’s a ton of them this Fringe who are all doing brave, funny, important things like she is. As a first solo show, it’s a terrific start, and in my opinion, what Melbourne Fringe is all about. I mean, when else can you dance to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen under a big top in Collingwood on a Wednesday night?

Hannah Cryle – The Loneliest Number

Venue: Melba Spiegletent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood

Season: 21st September-2nd October

Tickets: https://melbournefringe.com.au/program?event/the_loneliest_number/62c18b4a-cbcd-4723-a19d-6a5c7c4b51a2/

Melbourne Fringe 2016: NO FRILLS CABARET

All the talent and tension without the tinsel

By Joana Simmons

No Frills Cabaret is exactly as the title says. No marketing, no budget, no MC. It may have no frills but it is definitely full of extremely entertaining and skillful circus and comedy. It is an absolute joy from start to finish. Created and produced by Christopher Carlos and Matthew Casey and combining some of Australia’s best established and upcoming circus artists, this is one action-thrill-packed hour that proves how much talent there is on these fine shores.

No Frills Cabaret.jpg

From the rowdy Rockstar opening, we are told we are in for a “cheap fun easy to watch highly skilled night of awesomeness” and the crowd whoops and cheers with excitement. Basically, each performer came on, nailed their act, and announced in their own candid and comedic way the next performer. The skill level and variety is jaw-dropping. Hula Hoops, foot-juggling, headstand-balancing, lira, contortion, trapeze, juggling and teeterboard: the list alone is exhaustive yet this energetic cast made it look so easy. The thing that knocked my socks off in this show is how each act had its own concept, well thought-out, clearly acted-out and amazingly executed. It helps us to connect to the tricks so much more when there’s a story behind it; like a fight between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, or a man who has been abducted and turned into a JuggleBot as an experiment.

Production wise, it is almost bang on. A boss soundtrack combined with simple and effective lighting puts this show on the top shelf. Although mostly performers weren’t mic’d, there was only one moment in the Jugglebot act where it was difficult to hear Jeff Young from where I was at the back. Special mention to the crew who made the scenes glide easily from one to the other, moving equipment on and offstage without it detracting from what else was going on. The costumes (obviously without frills but with many a sequin) tied everything together, being sexy where they needed to be without being cheap, and showing off the incredible physiques of the performers while adding to each character.

I want to highly commend all the artists for their authentic interactions with the audience, as this is one thing I find commonly lacking in circus. Each concept had clear characterisation, physicality and emotion, which is hard enough to do on its own let alone when you are balancing things on your feet or spinning through the air with your leg behind your head. Individual standouts were Malia’s babin’ badass opening Hula Hoop act, Chris Carlos’ head-balancing and Jobby and AJ’s teeterboard finale- (he did a move which is apparently called the Coca-cola; air time and applause levels were both high.)

Circus, like cabaret, is becoming more and more popular and sometimes runs the risk of being, dare I say it, showy, predictable and naff. This show is the complete opposite. There has been a lot of thought put into how to make us “wow” and cheer as much as we did, instead of relying on tricks alone. It is inspirational to see so many talented young people work so hard to put on such a slick show. For circus virgins to the most experienced viewers alike, this will get your heart racing and hands banging together. The season is limited, so say YES to No Frills.

No Frills Cabaret was performed from 16 – 18 Sep 8.30pm at The Melba Spiegletent for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016

Michaela Burger and Greg Wain are EXPOSING EDITH

Be enraptured

By Jessica Cornish

Exposing Edith has returned for a short season at the beautiful Melba Spiegeltent. This captivating 70-minute cabaret blends a mixture of impersonation and interpretation through 14 songs and monologues to explore the life and lovers of Edith Piaf.

Exposing Edith.JPG

The work stars Michaela Burger as Piaf accompanied by Greg Wain on acoustic guitar, and this duo have created a beautiful theatre piece.

Burger’s vocals were outstanding. Her warm vibrato and vintage French pop sound filled the tent of mirrors as she sang a mixture of French and English songs. And with a little smoke and those mirrors you could even be forgiven for mistaking Ms Burger for the real deal as there is a striking resemblance between the performer and Piaf, with her dark braided hair and petite stature.

Wain was the perfect addition to accompany Ms Burger: he had a gentle stage presence and seamlessly incorporated some interesting chord colourings and strum patterns into the songs throughout the evening. The music was an utter joy to listen to throughout the night, and the pair even added their own flair to the traditional songs in cleverly playing around with the texture of sounds by incorporating loop pedals, echo and delay in to the performance.

Of course “La Vie En Rose” and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” were powerful moments within the show and instantly recognisable to all audience members. However, don’t presume every song will be an Edith classic: for example, the performers open the show with a one-minute musical creation attempting to summarise large chunks of the performer’s life.

The lighting rig and set were minimalistic, and props were only a microphone, chair and a black feather boa. The performance space thus beautifully mirrored traditional performances from Edith herself, where one would find a vast stage with only the 4-foot-something French icon encased in a spotlight.

Exposing Edith is an excellent starting point for a new generation of music lovers to be exposed to the incredible life and songs of Edith Piaf, although potentially a little underwhelming to those more die-hard fans who already have a solid knowledge of the lady. However, the songstress’ story is cleverly told from the revealing perspectives of both the character and Ms Burger, and the music? It’s just stunning.

Dates:
Wednesday, 18 May – 7:00pm
Thursday, 19 May – 7:00pm
Friday, 20 May – 7:00pm
Saturday, 21 May – 7:00pm

Bookings:
Adult: $35
Concession: $30
Web: trybooking.com

Venue:
Circus Oz Home
35 Johnston Street
Collingwood , Victoria , 3066

REVIEW: Circus Oz Presents CURIOSITY

Delightful kids theatre

By Narelle Wood

Curiosity performed by acrobatic group Dislocate, is a charming theatrical journey in to a land beyond the bottom of the toy box. Alex is an adventurer and very curious, which means we meet lots of interesting characters along the way.

Curiosity Image by Rob Blackburn

Alex is in trouble, preferring to use her brother’s skateboard for a mode of transportation rather than clean up her mess. Unfortunately for Alex she gets into more trouble trying to explain that she is cleaning up, and this is where the slapstick theatrics begin. Once Alex discovers the new and colourful land she finds herself climbing, tumbling and twisting her way through the land of Curiosity.

The acrobatics are very cool; my three-year old nephew was transfixed by all the chairs, ladders and tossing people in the air. The biggest winners for Darragh though were the acrobatic ribbons (this was met with very enthusiastic applause) and what he describes as the ‘sad monster robot’ who was playing hide and seek on stilts. Many of the older kids found themselves interacting with Alex and helping her through her adventures.

The show is very cleverly written; I found myself laughing at jokes and watching the performance in just as much amazement as the kids. And like many good kids show Alex learns a lot about herself along the way, like how to solve problems and be respectful.

The set and prop use was impressive. There was never too much happening on stage and the performance made smart use of the space, including several scenes towards the ceiling and scene that found itself at the back of the theatre.

Curiosity is a simple and enchanting story that is sure to enthrall and entertain young and old. I highly recommend, a lovely way to spend an hour with some little ones.

Venue: The Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood
Season: 17-24 October Wed-Fri 10.30am & 2.30pm Sat 10.30am & 12.30pm
Tickets: Full $18 Children four and under free
Bookings: themelba.eventbrite.com.au

Image by Rob Blackburn

REVIEW: Anya Anastasia in TORTE E MORT

Treat yourself

By Bradley Storer

Bedecked in a gorgeous 18th-century aristocratic French court gown topped by an appropriately extravagant wig, cabaret performer Anya Anastasia swanned elegantly through the audience at the Melba Spiegeltent, her entourage (comprised of one drummer and one back up singer) strewing her path with rose petals while she blew kisses and flirted with the crowd.

Torte e Mort

From this decadent entrance, Anastasia took the audience on a wild ride loosely inspired by the cautionary life of Marie Antoinette – under the direction of Sarah Ward (AKA cabaret provocateur Yana Alana) the journey spins delightfully towards the grave and beyond, bouncing with dark glee from musical tales of Antoinette’s extravagance to doom-riddled warnings from a certain ‘post-apocalyptic auctioneer’ who sells off the French queen’s post-mortem possessions.

Anastasia exudes an ecstatic sense of anarchy, whether it’s contorting her body to ridiculous lengths all the while still plucking out a melody on the piano, or executing a striptease that shifts compellingly between burlesque and a contemporary movement piece. The titular songs of cake and death, with drummer Bec Matthews expertly accompanying, run the gamut from manic and adrenaline-crazed elegies to the parties of the French aristocracy, black-hearted and jaunty tunes that recall Tom Waits at his most bleak, all the way to a simple and chilling ukulele tune about inevitable mortality. However, a section which pays visit to the devil and an ode to the advantages of self loathing, while entertaining, spins so far from the central topic of the show for reasons that are unclear that it almost seems unnecessary.

Overall Torte e Mort is a wildly inventive show that bursts with ferocious creative energy, drawing laughs one moment before chilling the blood the next – a delicious and bloody treat for lovers of cabaret!

Dates: Wednesday 16th September – Sunday 20th September
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood
Time: 8:30pm (Wednesday 7:45pm)
Price: Full $25, Preview $15
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au, 03 9660 9666, at the door.