Assembly George Square, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 15th August 2013
Next time someone claims burlesque is degrading to women, send them the way of Briefs, an all-male ‘boylesque’ troupe from Brisbane, who cavort, tease and flirt with their audience as much as any female performer would, proving the artform goes beyond what sex you are, to how fabulous you want to be. In an inventive array of costumes (and out of them – posing pouches a-plenty here) the six-man company present a colourful cabaret of circus acts, drag, and good ole’fashioned fun.
The party atmosphere is already established as I take my seat in the Spiegeltent to a kitsch wedding disco soundtrack of ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ’99 Red Balloons’. The performers move amongst us, selling raffle tickets and having a chat, in their coat-tails and false-eylashes, waxed moustaches and cut-off collars. The lights darken, an ominous hooded figure lights the way to the stage as we listen to a dramatic ‘War of The Worlds’ soundbite, and then, instead of aliens… we get a brilliantly lit catwalk stage and feathered fans, an expertly choreographed introduction to tonight’s stars.
Shivannah (a.k.a. Fez Faanana) is our sharp witted and attitude filled host, who declares the night ‘A little bit of butch, with a f*@$-load of camp’ (censorship my own), and then introduces the Evil Hate Monkey and his pink bucket full of raffle tickets. With a stand-up flavoured intro and a lesson in camp that has the entire audience joining in, Shivannah moves us into our first act; Ben Lewis plays it cool on the aerial straps with strong clean planches and poses, and rolls as smooth as his quiffed hair-do.
Our host reappears, recostumed, with some effective sleight of hand tricks, and then Louis Biggs takes centre stage as a cheeky geeky schoolboy who impresses us with his rubiks cube, yoyo, and packed lunch.
Transitions are snappy and entertaining, the music segues smoothly from one number to the next, and the moments of hula-hoop, hand-balance and juggling keep us entertained with physical skill as well as beauty.
A particular highlight for me is the dog show with acrobatic human pooches, and a naughty glimpse of life for the winners behind closed doors.
The raffle is drawn, and time has flown as Shivannah announces we are down to our final act; but this is a dazzler. Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill – one of two previous King of Burlesque winners in the company – makes his way through the audience in an outfit of tropical feathers, to perform a sensual birdbath from his dance trapeze perch. It’s beautiful (and, if you are sitting close to the stage, damp!) and the show is over all too soon. The company offer their final tease as they close to classic disco number ‘Enough is Enough’, and we’re left wanting more.