Produced by Spiegelworld
Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
Until October 25
What can I say? I’ve just seen one of the most entertaining shows in months.
ABSINTHE is being presented by Spiegelworld in the century-old, Belgian spiegeltent in Hyde Park.
Spiegelworld’s impresario, Australian Ross Mollison, was inspired by cabarets of late 1800s Europe. Faithful to tradition, this incarnation is an adult-themed cocktail of comedy, burlesque, vaudeville and high-level circus skills that has been playing to sell-out houses at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas since April, 2011.
As the show begins, we can’t help but notice the the unusually muscular “women” sitting on four trapezes above the audience. In fact, they were so powerfully built that they could have swum in the 1988 Chinese Women’s Olympic Swimming Team.
The waiter, Ukrainian Aleksandr Volohdin, comes out and proceeds to stack eight chairs on top of each other, climbing as he goes, and executes a hand stand at the top of the tower. An impressive opening.
The Lost Souls, acrobats also from the Ukraine, then perform their astonishing Banquine Act. The four are in tank tops and very tight shorts. On the evening on which I attended, one of them was clearly excited to be there.
In true burlesque-style, Karla Tomkich, a petite, attractive, blonde triple threat who trained at WAAPA, and the only Australian in the troupe, hits the stage singing and tapping to ‘I Want to Be Happy’ and slowly undresses and climbs inside a large balloon until it is pricked.
Then there are the two Mexican gymnasts who execute breathtaking dives, flips and mid-air somersaults on a large cube constructed of eight steel poles. Michal Nowosadko and Zbigniew Sobierajski from Poland present a sensational display of strength and balance. Apart from that, it’s all about shape and form; they could be Grecian sculptures.
Cavea Aurea (Laura von Bongard and Luka Clayburn from Germany) emerge dressed as schoolgirls and strip down to their underwear to perform an erotic routine on the high hoop.
On the Duo Straps, Jacob Oberman and Maika Isogawa are the personification on sensuality. We’ve all seen acts on the Duo Straps before, but I’ve seen nothing like this.
An obvious comedy act is Duoadagio. The male looks like a 1980s porn star and the woman looks like former ice-skater Tonya Harding. Close your eyes for this one if male nudity offends you.
The final act is The Frat Pack from the USA. On the tight, high wire, one of the three sits on a chair balanced on a pole that sits on the shoulders of the two other wire walkers. They are goaded on by the MC, a role taken by “the filthy rich and just plain filthy" Gazillionaire who is dressed in a carpetbag jacket, gold shoes, frilly shirt, trousers that are way too short, argyle socks, pencil moustache, rat teeth and too much Brylcreem,
The Gazillionaire is irreverent, racist and sleazy, and is prone to the frequent expletive. An Indian audience member, the Gazillionaire explains, is an accountant or doctor who also has a job in a call centre. Two men sitting together in the front row are obviously gay, the two women beside each other are lesbians, an Asian woman in the front row needs to be spoken to loudly and slowly and is reminded that she has to get up in the morning to work in that nail salon. He’s a bit like America’s answer to Les Patterson, and everyone, especially the “victims”, loved it. Two of them laughed until they cried.
Another circus format doesn't escape mention:
“It’s that French Canadian circus shit that everyone seems to like”.
Abby: "I don't understand it."
Gazillionaire: "Nobody does."
Like all good stand-up comedians, his patter remains current: “That Julie Bishop lesbian up the back came in with someone but she’ll leave with someone else more powerful”, and there are many other local references.
The audience participation part of the show involves inviting a woman to sit on the chair on the stage, and at different times, two male audience members perform lap dances. The woman is instructed to indicate the winner by squeezing his genitals.
The Gazillionaire is ably supported by his eager assistant, Abby Bobbins from Edmonton, Canada. Abby is extremely enthusiastic and is obsessed with sexual fantasies that she describes in minute detail.
Caution: If you suffer from, or self-righteously enjoy, chronic political correctness, ABSINTHE is definitely not the show for you. You will be shocked, appalled and mortified. If, however, you can relax and enjoy clever humour, superlative circus skills, theatrical erotica and sensuality, breathtaking stunts, exceptional creativity and the dark side of circus, I entirely and unreservedly recommend ABSINTHE. Due to sell-outs, the season has been extended to October 25. I might just go back to see it again.