REVIEW: Briefs (London Wonderground 2015)
Back in London for the fourth time and enjoying an extended run at London Wonderground’s delicious Spiegeltent, Briefs – an all-male Australian revue fusing circus, burlesque and drag – certainly delivers in the entertainment stakes.
The cast of seven work hard at a fast-paced gallop – we’re told they need to fit a ninety-minute show into a seventy-five-minute slot – through a range of circus skills, tightly held together by comedic interludes. Though all highly skilled, our host Shivannah, drag artiste Dallas Dellaforce, and BHoF title-holder Captain Kidd dominate the show with fierce stage presence and authentic charisma. Shivannah in particular is glorious, her withering stare and acid asides expertly balanced with warmth and genuine good humour; the perfect host, engendering trust, love and just a little bit of fear.
The opening group number, a gender-melding melee of Busby Berkeley-inspired choreography, striptease and fan dancing, set the tone with its provocative, joyful climax of bouncing white cotton briefs and UV light. This was followed by a series of solo spots showcasing the cast’s considerable talent. Special mention must go to aerialist and hand-balancer Thomas Worrell for his assured, technically perfect, highly musical and extremely flexible turns on cerceau and tissu, and to The Evil Hate Monkey for his superb banana ballet.
Shivannah’s magic act was also perfectly judged, a blend of faux and actual magic delivered with bored disdain and clever comic touches, and Dallas Dellaforce’s lip-synch act was one of the best things I’ve seen all year; an Amanda Lepore aesthetic both honoured and mocked as it gradually disintegrated before our eyes. This act epitomised Briefs’ attitude to gender; nothing but a ludicrous collection of arbitrary elements to be picked up, played with and discarded at will. If Briefs could be said to have a message, I suspect it is this, were the cast less focused on giving us a rollicking good time, anyway.
The infamous dog show group number was well observed and well executed but the longest act by far, leaving the show feeling unbalanced. Perhaps it would feel less so if the show ran at full length. Full of clever, witty touches, the number’s gag-inducing finale struck a self-indulgent note, adding nothing to the satire and taking things just the wrong side of vulgar compared with what had gone before. But when the rest of the show is so damn good, it’s easy to forgive the odd lapse of judgment.
The finale is Captain Kidd’s birdbath routine. Sitting in the front row, we were thoughtfully provided with plastic sheeting and warned we would get wet. They weren’t joking. Stepping on to the stage in impressively exotic plumage, Kidd performed a spirited strip, full of energy and attitude, before climbing into the rather full birdbath and treating the front two rows to a drenching. There were squeals of delight as he splashed and kicked and spat water on the crowd. Climbing on to a single point dance trapeze suspended above the birdbath, Kidd performed a series of aerial tricks, swinging out over our heads and dipping an impeccably pointed toe in the birdbath to spray us with yet more water as he traversed the air above the stage. It was sexy and a hugely accomplished piece of burlesque; a fitting end to a hugely accomplished show.
If you haven’t seen Briefs, do. It has skill and spirit in abundance. I laughed, I gasped, I gagged and I got wet – what more can you ask from a night out?
Briefs at London Wonderground 2015 reviewed by Miss Glory Pearl. Visit the London Wonderground website for tickets until 27th September 2015.