The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway

 This is the fourth time a group of magicians under the banner of “The Illusionists” have staged a production in Melbourne, and this is the third show within the franchise that I have seen. I was extremely lucky and excited to be sitting in the front row, in front of all the action that was about to unfold! The 2019 installation of “The Illusionists” featured the following performers: Paul Dabek (The Trickster), Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator), Mark Kalin (The Showman) and Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress), Leonardo Bruno (The Alchemist), Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and Sam Powers (The Enigma). The production also features Robyn Sharpe (The Warrior) however she was absent from the show I attended.

 I do not wish to spoil too much about what feats each act contained, however I will mention that this show has something that appeals to everyone who enjoys magic as there are so many styles that are covered. I especially enjoyed the magic presented by Jinger Leigh and Mark Kalin – both well respected and award winning magicians from the United States – as their acts contained magic that was captivating and incredible. Both are great storytellers and held the audience’s gaze and attention with each magical tale. Another performer of note is Frenchman Flavian Sainvet (The Manipulator)- also an award winning magician – once you’ve seen his act, you’ll understand why! All his magic was so smooth, and there was one piece in particular that made me feel as though I should get my eyes checked (ha!)

Another personal highlight was the MC for most of the evening (and resident Trickster) Paul Dabek. Previously I’d been lucky enough to catch Paul Dabek’s solo show (previous review for that is here) and wasn’t surprised he’d been hand selected to join The Illusionists -the man has impeccable comedic timing! From the moment he appeared onstage he prompted laughs and I know that I was laughing at points all along the show, clearly due to Paul. In an art form that can be a little serious at times, Paul Dabek made this show lighthearted and beyond enjoyable. Clearly I can go on about this man for ages, but trust me – once you enjoy his work you’ll understand why he’s world class.

Final performer mentions from me are Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and ‘homegrown hero’ Sam Powers (The Enigma). Chris Cox took my mental image / concept / prior experience of mind readers and flipped all categories! Literally bounding around stage with exuberance (kind of like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – but with braces, glasses and a neat outfit), Chris charmed the audience quickly with his endearing nature. Whereas ‘typical’ mind readers can come across as a bit scary / creepy with often serious routines, Chris ensured that his routines were the opposite – lighthearted, charming and not at all scary. The level of details he went to when ‘picking the brains’ of his audience members were incredible – much of the audience members were in disbelief. We are talking about ridiculous levels of detail here. Sam Powers had two segments in the show: one segment of classic stage magic and another set featuring a nail biting escape routine. Ever the showman, Sam was all smiles throughout his magic and showed plenty of panache. I very much enjoyed his magical stage entrance.

Without making too many comparisons to previous productions of “The Illusionists”, I will mention that there were aspects of this show that I liked more than the other shows – radically different presentations of magic and greatly enhanced comedy – however I did feel that some portions of the show did not reward those who had attended the previous productions. This left me wondering as surely the show producers would take into account that a percentage of the audience would have seen at least one of the previous productions of “The Illusionists”? Nevertheless, I’m always excited when the team of “The Illusionists” include Melbourne in their show run. The fact they keep returning is testament to the popularity and public interest in magic around the world and in Melbourne, which I think is wonderful.

 VERDICT: Perfect mix of comedy, suspense and some nail biting moments to keep you on the edge of your seat! “The Illusionists” have high production values and a show formula that consistently works, making this show a ‘safe bet’ for a very entertaining and mystifying night out.

*Note: The Illusionists have concluded their show run, but future shows are listed on their website here: https://www.theillusionistslive.com/
They may be appearing in a city near you soon!

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“ASPYCADABRA” performed by Tim Ellis

On a hot Summer evening in Melbourne, my partner and I ventured out to the bespoke and exclusive Laneway Theatre (within an inner city suburb) to enjoy the premiere of Tim Ellis’ new magic show, titled “ASPYCADABRA”. For those of you unaware, Tim Ellis is synonymous with magic in Melbourne – during the show, Tim mentions that over the years he has run a magic shop, he runs /organises The Melbourne Magic Festival and now runs his own theatre too. Upfront in the show, Tim explains that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (or Autism Spectrum Disorder as it has now been categorised under) and sometimes refers to himself as an ‘Aspy’ – hence the name of the show.

You may think that the subject matter within this show could get a bit serious, however I found that Tim treated Asperger’s Syndrome with care whilst also being candid. I assure you there were some laughs and lighthearted moments during the show and Tim was keen to project some of the advantages of Asperger’s (especially helping him to succeed in his profession, and have a sort of collection of ‘superpowers’). The downsides to having Asperger’s were also mentioned – but not in a ‘poor me’ fashion – rather a trade off of skills (gaining some skills at the expense of others).

I enjoyed the personal nature of this show as it gave the audience a chance to learn more about the magician themselves. In the magical world of smoke and mirrors – where nothing is as it seems -I relished the chance to discover more about Tim and his background. Almost part TED talk, part magic show, each piece of magic was carefully selected to accompany a piece of dialogue or a short story relating to a strength or weakness of Asperger’s. Speaking of the magic, I won’t spoil too much here but along with some pieces of magic that Tim regularly performs, there was a piece that made everyone gasp with surprise. It was an incredible feat of magic that left audience members with their jaws on the floor! Children were in the audience on opening night, many of them chanting “HOW did he do that?!” I also personally enjoyed the messages conveyed via card magic (especially relating to trying to ‘fit in’).

There were many personal messages in the show, but the one that resonated with me (and that was carried all the way through the show) is that everyone is unique – and that is something that should be celebrated. In a society and world that tends to want everyone to act and work a certain way, there’s something liberating about celebrating everyone’s unique qualities. Indeed, Tim mentions that everyone had their role and part to play in society no matter their background or individual differences. Tim also opened up a segment of question time during the show, which I feel enhanced the audience’s learning. At the end of the show, it felt nice to have seen some fantastic magic and to have learnt more about the performer at the same time.

VERDICT: A thought provoking and candid show well worth your time. Part TED talk and part magic show “ASPYCADABRA” is as entertaining as it is informative, thought provoking and clever. I encourage everyone to come and see this show – it is so worthwhile.

Notes:
– this show is suited to teens upwards
– Disclaimer: my partner and I attended as guests of the performer

Tickets and further information:
https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=448181

2019 has started swiftly!

Hello readers! I hope the new year has started well for you all. You’re probably (again!) wondering where I’ve gone to / where I’ve been hiding these past couple of months…well in a nutshell, it has been a mixture of being unwell (and being unable to go out and watch shows) along with trying to find a new place to live mixed in with the usual holiday family gatherings. It has been a busy time and I have been to a few outings however I haven’t had a chance to write about them as life and ‘life admin’ got in the way a little. I am keen to resume my regular posts and reviews so I hope you are keen to continue reading about my adventures.

I am excited to write that I’m back reviewing this week and can’t wait to share my adventures with you all! This week brings two magic shows (one an International production), along with a play and a fun adventure to a mini golf pop-up experience. Plenty of fun ‘on the cards’ (as they say) this week!

I’m also looking forward to some other adventures / potential adventures that may be occurring later this year (not much I can elaborate on right now) as well as enjoying all the regular festivals on Melbourne’s annual calendar of events – like the International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne Magic Festival and the Fringe Festival among others.

Currently, Midsumma is on so I hope some of you are enjoying all the fun moments that festival brings.

I look forward to writing again soon, and as always, thanks for sticking around and having a read and a share.

Tay

 

“Ophelia Thinks Harder” performed by wit incorporated

 Having grown up in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, I was very excited to spend an evening in Footscray to revel in “Ophelia Thinks Harder” by western suburbs performance group wit incorporated. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is a play based on William Shakespeare’s great tragedy – Hamlet – with playwright Jean Betts adding a different frame to the story, and of course some modern twists. wit incoporated co founder Belinda Campbell directs the performance of “Ophelia Thinks Harder” and once you see the show I’m sure you’ll agree she does a stellar job.

To set the scene: “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is housed inside the beautiful Bluestone arts space (a former church) in Footscray. Within, the setup matches that of a castle which matches the aesthetic of Hamlet. The stage and audience space was in a completely different setup to what I expected – with the stage being a massive ‘chessboard’ bookmark shaped space, along the sides / length of which sat the audience in tiered seats. It was thrilling to see how close the front row audience was going to be to the performers, but on that note all the reactions and facial expressions of the audience will be on show at times (so beware of you’re a frequent yawner or sniffer!) Each end of the ‘chessboard’ held a small, well decorated set – a castle room, and Ophelia’s bedroom.

OTH9Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

Heading up the amazing cast is Sarah Clarke as the titular Ophelia, Ruby Lauret as Maid, Leigh Scully as the dastardly Hamlet, Sam Anderson as the sweet Horatio and Jennifer Piper as the imposing Queen (among a fantastic array of other cast members). I could honestly write a separate essay on how awesome each cast member is in their own right, however for the sake of brevity I won’t do that here. Many of the cast members have more than one role over the course of the show and their hard work is seen through their reams of dialogue, strong facial expressions and physical scenes within the play. The actors listed above do a superb job of pulling the audience into their character’s world – when Ophelia’s lips tremble and her eyes search for help I honestly wished I could depart my seat and give her a big hug. When Hamlet stokes an angry fire inside each female audience member (and let me tell you – there were a lot of us!) I had to stop my urge to kick him when he was rolling around on the floor (not that I would actually do that, but the temptation was there). When the Queen made her grand entrance into the theatre, she was so striking and imposing – every set of eyes in the theatre was set on her. It was so quiet in the theatre you could have heard a pin drop. The strength of all the acting is testament to audience members feeling those emotions inside. The play contains turbulent scenes at times, but the cast take that in their stride – never wavering or looking tired – until the final moment when everyone takes a bow. A personal favourite character of mine was that of Maid (Ruby Lauret) – consistently helpful and dependable – with some funny and potent scenes too.

OTH8Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

OTH3Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

The extended cast seems to be largely made up females, which in itself is a large departure from the times of Shakespeare which  were traditionally male dominated performances – I found this refreshing. There are times during “Ophelia Thinks Harder” where there are female cast members playing males who then dress up as females, which adds to the complexity (but also adds some light hearted banter).

OTH1Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

“Ophelia Thinks Harder” takes elements of Hamlet, but the whole show is through the lens of Ophelia – especially her trials, self doubt, how she relates to others and her questions. This is where the feminist take also comes in, with Ophelia (and other characters) speculating on what it means to be a woman – the expectations of yourself and those that society thrusts upon you. Whether it be modern day society or otherwise, the expectations and messages sing the same tune. The dialogue is rich in many places, there are many notable quotes that I could list here but I don’t want to spoil the show. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” isn’t afraid to depict serious issues – sexual harassment, assault and partner violence among them – issues which have been brought to the forefront of society in recent times. All of the characters in “Ophelia Thinks Harder” are manipulative and have their own agendas, but this and the pertinent themes combine to make a show that you can’t tear yourself away from – you become compelled to watch to see how things pan out.

There are times when this performance breaks the “4th wall” or comes close to it. The audience is so close to the performers and the cast utilise every square of space – an aspect that I loved. There were moments where (if I had outstretched my hand or leg) I could have touched many of the cast. During other moments, cast members locked eyes with audience members. All this made the show so real and potent. The audience couldn’t help but be drawn into the show and into each character’s spaces and predicaments. A wide assortment of props were used during the show, which enhanced the storyline (and laughs) in places.

The audience seemed to be engaged and enthralled by this show with each scene and interaction between cast members. There were laughs, snorts of derision (especially reserved for Hamlet!) and gasps of surprise around every corner. Scanning around the room, I found many people smiling and enjoying every scene. Indeed, it is easy to sit back and enjoy this show – it is not pretentious and you don’t need to be a Shakespeare buff to enjoy the evening ahead of you. If you are familiar with Shakespeare, there are nods to some of his other works – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth among them – to make any Shakespeare fan smile.

Understandably, Shakespearean shows aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I encourage you to put your misgivings and prior experiences of Shakespearean plays aside. This is the play for you – there are modern twists and references, there are relatable characters and while there is an amount of traditional Shakespearean prose, traditional and modern dialogue and references are combined to create an enthralling, entertaining and worthwhile show.

I had such a great night out and clearly became so immersed in the characters and storyline that when I exited the theatre I completely forgot where I was! We may have been in an inner Western suburb of Melbourne, but within the church we were in Ophelia’s domain.

VERDICT: A fantastic production that will engage, enthrall and entertain. Shakespeare fan or not, it is easy to be pulled into Ophelia’s world and to be thrust into the storyline. It is a show you can’t take your eyes away from. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” will surely make you think harder too!

*disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of wit incorporated

Tickets and information: “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is showing at the Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray until Sunday November 24th.
Information and tickets via: http://www.witinc.com.au/whats-on/ophelia-thinks-harder

“The Boy From Oz” performed by MLOC Productions Inc.

 On a gloriously warm Spring afternoon, I ventured bayside to the pleasant suburb of Parkdale to visit the local Shirley Burke theatre. This modern theatre is a jewel in Parkdale – with a welcoming foyer, comfortable seats, neat theatre layout and an abundant number of friendly staff on hand to help visitors. On this occasion, I attended the Shirley Burke theatre for the local theatrical group MLOC Productions’ opening weekend of “The Boy From Oz”. For those of you unaware, “The Boy From Oz” chronicles the story of the Australian musical icon Peter Allen- his trials, tribulations and rise to fame.

The show set a fairly fast pace  – but not too fast, so that the audience could keep up with the storyline and the ever growing cast of character appearing in Peter Allen’s life. At regular intervals between songs, lead Matt Jakowenko (Peter Allen) would keep the show moving along by addressing the audience and eliciting many responses and laughs in the process. On that note, all of the comments and one liners from Matt Jakowenko meant that this production is quite interactive. Sitting silently won’t win you any favours from “The Boy from Oz”! With a gleaming smile, smooth hair and fabulous outfits, Jakowenko easily had the audience captivated each time he was on stage. Other standout leads include Saskia Penn (Judy Garland) whose vocal solos commanded silence from the audience; Hallie Goodman (Liza Minnelli) who made many a Minnelli fan swoon with her likeness and charm; and Wendy Alberni (Marion Woolnough) who I’m sure many in the audience could relate to, with her encouraging tones and witty comments. Ben Howell (young Peter) impressed with his smile and his easy presence onstage, along with his clear musical theatre talents. I’m sure we will all see his name in lights one day! A special mention also goes to Peter Allen’s trio of singers, who helped keep Peter ‘on track’ and even sung a few songs themselves with an impressive vocal range. Indeed, throughout the production I couldn’t fault the vocal talents of the cast – everyone sang so well.

Having viewed (and reviewed) several Peter Allen tribute  / cabaret shows previously, I was excited to see this theatrical production and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s truly a joyous and vibrant spectacle of show, which had the audience clapping and cheering along at every turn. The eyes and smiles of each cast member (and especially those within the ensemble) were as shiny and glittery as each sequin worn on their many outfits. There were so many costume changes for the leads and ensemble members that I think some magic really is weaved backstage – the amount of costume changes is mind boggling and a testament to the levels of dedication and skill to all cast members involved in the production. I also enjoyed the varied range of ages within the cast members, ranging from those of high school ages right up to performers who I’m sure have ‘tread the boards’ for a number of years. This greatly enhanced the storyline and production, as Peter Allen would have mixed with a wide variety of people throughout his life.

The principal team behind this production – Director / Choreographer Rhylee Nowell, Musical Director Matthew Hadgraft and Production Manager Andrew Gyopar – head a ‘conga line’ of wonderfully talented cast members and their own dedication to the show can clearly be seen on stage. Whether it be the clever set design and glittering wardrobe of costumes, the multiple choreographed dance sequences by the cast, or the dialogue and story progression from the lead cast members that makes the show more than a back catalogue of Peter Allen songs, I can only imagine how many hours of sweat and rehearsals went into a production such as this. It’s a production that from the outset looks like a neat package which then bursts open with an array of colour and surprise as soon as the curtains open.

I felt so uplifted by the end of the performance, and almost lost my voice with the amount of cheering and whooping I was doing (always a good sign of a great show!). On the way out of the theatre I overheard many audience members commenting on the high quality of the production and the fun night out that we were all privileged to share.

VERDICT: A joyous and vibrant production that will have you clapping and chanting along. Never a dull moment with this show, which has such high production values I’m questioning why it isn’t showing in the larger theatres of Melbourne. I highly encourage you visit this jewel of a show during its limited run in Parkdale. I can only hope this production tours so many more are able to see it.

Tickets and more information: https://mloc.org.au/

*Disclaimer: I attended this production as a guest of the show Director.

Melbourne Fringe Review: “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot”

Back in the main theatre of Speakeasy HQ in central Melbourne, I had been waiting all week with anticipation to see “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot” performed by Mad Vlad Bolshoi and Zlobnyy “Babushka” Kartofel Let me make an admission here: this show is NOT for the faint hearted! Get ready to strap yourselves in for a wild ride for this show, for it has surprises, danger and drama in each moment.

Right from the moment the show starts, the audience becomes aware that they’re now on a rollercoaster hurtling along at breakneck speed with Mad Vlad and Babushka at the controls. Mad Vlad himself wastes no time smashing things and flirting with danger in every move. The show features some strongman stunts (like metal bending) but there are segments of the show that stray into daredevil territory, and there was one particular stunt that made me want to shake Mad Vlad and yell “ARE YOU INSANE?!!” at him. Trust me – when you see the show, you’ll know what I’m referring to. I seriously don’t know how he does it! This show is gripping, will have you perched on the edge of your seat and will make your pulse race. I’m sure I had hypertension / an elevated heart rate during the entire show! At times, things got a bit thrilling and I wasn’t sure if I needed to look away. When I did see the expressions on the faces of other audience members, there was a mix of shocked expressions, plus plenty of wincing and grimacing. I get the feeling that many people rarely get the opportunity to watch strongmen and daredevils.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition with this show as Babushka provides comedy relief (via her chirpy accordion and penchant for confetti) especially when Mad Vlad is completing a crazy or extra dangerous task. Babushka is also a master of the ‘hard stare’ which prompted many giggles from the audience. Seems they don’t smile too much where Mad Vlad and Babushka come from, however they certainly provided a few smiles and giggles for their audience. Mad Vlad himself is also engaging with the audience – many of us had the chance to make sure / feel / test that the concrete pavers / pieces of metal and wood etc used during his act were real (and they were) which added to the impressive nature of the show.

Mad Vlad and Babushka expend a lot of energy in their show, but it is all worthwhile for an audience that madly screams, cheers and shouts for them as they leave the stage at the end of a thrilling, safety defying and crazy show. A wild rollercoaster ride that I enjoyed very much and that I’m so glad I took.

VERDICT: “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot” doesn’t just tick all those boxes, it blows them away and smashes them! Make no mistake about this show: it is thrilling and is dangerous, but there’s fun to be had when you shake off the trappings of a mundane life and flirt with danger. IS VLAD. IS STRONG. IS MAD.

Tickets / more information:
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/strongman-daredevil-idiot/

“Miniature Museum of Magic” performed by Jo Clyne

 Down an alley in Melbourne, hidden in a room that used to be an old bank vault is The Vault Melbourne – an intimate theatre seating only 20 people. This charming theatre – decked out with vintage curtains and plush furniture – is a fitting room for Jo Clyne’s magic show “Miniature Museum of Magic” which is a show that takes the audience back in time to the ‘golden age of magic’. Jo’s show is heavy on storytelling and charm as much as magic, but each aspect of the show fits together beautifully.

Jo sets the scene well with a simple table and chair onstage and wears a beautiful outfit, which echoes some of the time periods she speaks of. Jo commenced the show by explaining the setting of the show fits parlour magic – in a time where the richer members of society would have a magician perform privately for their selected friends in the parlour of a mansion. Indeed, I did feel lucky to be in an intimate gathering of audience members to witness the ‘Miniature Museum of Magic’.

Harking back to the title of the show, Jo did almost seem like a museum guide or curator at times as she told stories involving magicians from the past or special places like Coney Island. Following each story would be a piece of magic tied to that story or theme. Each piece of magic was well chosen and fit each story perfectly. The pieces of magic in the show were largely pieces of classic magic – as you’d expect with the theme being historical – however there were some clever twists too. During some moments of the show, audience members leaned in with anticipation and gasped with delight at other times. There were moments of disbelief for us all as Jo weaved her magic. Audience participation was included in the show (as it is with most magic shows) however instead of this being a daunting prospect for some people, Jo was so disarming and gentle that she never had an issue with people not wanting to help. Each volunteer enjoyed the magic (that often unfolded in their own hands) and left the stage with a smile.

This show was so enjoyable that the hour just flashed by and in no time I was thrust back onto the bustling streets and lanes of modern day Melbourne.

VERDICT: A show perfectly suited to those who love history, stories and magic. The ‘Miniature Museum of Magic’ is full to the brim with mystery, magic and marvels. Allow Jo Clyne to enchant you with her stories and magic, and take you back to the ‘golden age of magic’.

Tickets and more information: This show is held in The Vault Melbourne theatre, which is part of Speakeasy HQ.
Ticketing link: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=408811&

*disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of the performer

 

Melbourne Fringe Review: “Make Your Move”

Returning to the lovely Gasworks theatre for another serving of fringe festival entertainment, I was excited to attend the show called “Make Your Move”. I had read a little about the show, however much of the details are left to be deliberately mysterious. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but throughout the course of the evening I was pleasantly surprised. With many shows becoming overly descriptive in titles and marketing blurbs, it was a little liberating to attend feeling like a ‘clean slate’ – having no preconceived expectations about the show. “Make Your Move” is a well organised show and the intimate but keen audience on opening night were warmly welcomed by the cast.

“Make Your Move” is directed by Gemma Flannery (13Theatre founder) and features a core team of 4 engaging performers – Luke Livermore, Hayley Marlow, Robyn Mclachlan and Tara Kennedy. Throughout the show, the audience is slowly given access to and perspectives of each character’s personality and world. It seems, at times, as if the audience members have visited a small town inhabited solely by these characters.  Dispersed between vignettes of each character, there is also a broader storyline featuring two lovers – a story which progresses, evolves and twists through the course of the show (and via the reactions / opinions of audience members).

The 4 performers within “Make Your Move” each did a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life – there were amusing conversations for the audience to witness, giggles and wry smiles and some impressive monologues. There were a couple of cliche lines, however there were also modern references which I enjoyed so a sense of balance was towed. Most importantly, the characters were highly relatable – I could see elements of myself in some of the characters or even elements of their backgrounds and could think of other people in my life who could relate to the characters as well. Collectively, I believe at least one of the characters would be relatable to most audience members (in one way or another). This also helps draw the audience into the stories within the show – as the show progresses, I get a sense that the audience ‘cares’ about the welfare of each character a little more. Overall, I found the characters’ perspectives to be like a foggy bathroom mirror – at the start of the show, the audience isn’t given much detail and then progressively through the show we learn more about the characters until a clear image of  each appears.

A regular segment of the show that I enjoyed was the “Game Show” segment, which to me was a commentary on how life throws us all into uncertain and stressful situations sometimes. I enjoyed the metaphors that the game show references brought, as well as some bonus laughs. I also enjoyed the ‘prop heavy’ nature of the show, and indeed how each performer / character regarded the props in the space after they had been used. It felt like every aspect of this show had been carefully selected and regarded. There were some storyline aspects that were serious and could be taken to darker places, however a balance remained (in content and jokes / light hearted moments).

The title “Make your Move” was regularly referenced throughout the show, which I liked as it constantly brought the audience back to the concept of “what’s next?” or “what do you want to do next?” or “where are you headed?” Life often throws each of us into the paths of crossroads – just like in this show, where characters approach their own crossroads with different perspectives.

Verdict: it’s time for YOU to take that next step and “Make Your Move” to the Gasworks to see this enjoyable, clever and thought provoking show. Take a chance, roll the dice of fate and see a show worthy of your time, attention and thought.

Tickets: http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/make-your-move/

*Disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of the Director.

Melbourne Fringe Review: Le Grande Cabaret

Tucked away in an inner city suburb, Hares and Hyenas is a both a bookshop and a performance space. The venue is playing host to a handful of fringe festival shows this season, including the one I was lucky to attend: Le Grande Cabaret. I will admit that I have previously seen an incarnation of Le Grande Cabaret, however this one was a markedly different show – with a particular theme and different assortment of performers.

Patrick Collins was the suitably charming MC for the evening and announced that the theme of the show was “Heaven and Hell” – with the first part of the show dedicated to performers with heavenly personas and routines, and the second part of the show would descend into the more devilish routines! Patrick addressed his audience as a ‘pantomime crowd’ prompting lots of of ‘oohs and aaahs’ and of course, making the audience laugh.

The lineup for the ‘heavenly’ portion of the evening commenced with none other than the delightfully sweet and divine Camilla Cream. Appearing in a beautifully fluffy and soft pastel pink outfit (with matching feather fans and headdress), it seemed that Camilla floated in on a cloud of fairy floss. Her routine set to a jazzy rendition of the modern song ‘Call Me Maybe”, Camilla was playful towards the audience with every step. Winking and being sultry one minute, then smiling coyly the next – every performance from Camilla is a sweet treat! I’m constantly impressed and mystified with how Camilla seemingly effortlessly moves and weaves her fans in time with the music. The way she uses them, they looks like they weigh nothing at all. One thing is for sure – Camilla’s performance was sensational!

Lord Lovat appeared next, with his ‘Twerking in the rain’ routine (admittedly, one of my personal favourites). If you’ve never seen Lord Lovat perform or seldom seen this routine then you are simply missing out on an amazing performance that is sassy, sexy and will leave you screaming for more! It’s a routine that never fails to leave the room steamy. Continuing on with the heavenly performers, I felt blessed as another ‘fan favourite’ – Liberty Foxx – appeared with a striking comedy based routine that was cleverly themed and which involved a complete transformation. I won’t spoil exactly what happened here, but let’s say the audience went bananas for Liberty.

Miss Holly Wouldn’t slipped through the crowd and onto the stage like a goddess from films past, performing a breathtaking and enchanting ‘classic tease’ routine and using a draping outfit with great effect. Continually glancing back to her audience, Miss Holly Wouldn’t ensured the audience constantly wanted more, and more we did! Ever so beautiful throughout her routine, I spied many longing glances from audience members after she had left the stage. Rounding out the heavenly section of the show was performer Michael Wheatley, who brought a gangster style vibe and very athletic body to the stage. I enjoyed his performance as he told the story of a man trying to impress a very beautiful woman (Camilla Cream) without using a word. The audience couldn’t but be charmed by Michael – he is such an endearing character.

In no time, Patrick Collins returned to introduce us to the hellish characters within the second part of the show, and in the process seemingly became overcome by the prince of darkness himself and performed some card magic!! Hellish to some, but I reveled in the magic routine (steered behind the scenes by the prince of darkness) and was entertained by every moment! It certainly displayed a stark contrast to the first section of the show. While the audience were on their journey to the hellish depths of the underworld, we discovered that many of the performers were the same people as we’d seen earlier in the show – however they’d taken on darker personas….Lord Lovat had now become a zombie, convulsing the wards of some faraway hospital while Liberty Foxx used a very slow, almost heavy metal reworking of the song ‘Bad Moon Rising’ to depict an almost occult little red riding hood. With her slow, calculating and almost tortured movements, Liberty Foxx’s performance gave me chills down my spine. Headlining the evening, Michael Wheatley returned – seemingly possessed by the soul of a singer from the 1970’s. Impressed by his vocal ability, the audience was treated when Michael came down into the audience and showed off his suave dance moves up close to some lucky audience members. All velvet and smooth moves, Michael’s routine was sultry at times as he gyrated his hips and surveyed his newest fans – the room was in awe and excited at the same time. It was the perfect crescendo to a fun evening out.

Aside from the amazing performers who clearly took the show theming to heart, what I enjoyed about this show is that it was fast paced with thrills and exciting moments around every corner. With a lineup that changes each night, you’ll never know who you’ll encounter in heaven (or hell).

VERDICT: Don’t be afraid to venture to the edges of heaven and hell with ‘Le Grande Cabaret’. Let the performers take you to realms of angelic and demonic delights for an entertaining night of burlesque and surprises.

Tickets and more information: https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/le-grande-cabaret/

*Disclaimer: I attended this even as a guest of Le Grande Cabaret

Melbourne Fringe Review – Creatrix Tiara: Queer Lady Magician

 On a slightly chilly evening, audience members gathered excitedly within a studio theatre at the Gasworks to witness Creatrix Tiara’s debut magic show during the Melbourne fringe festival, titled “Queer Lady Magician”. The title of the show describes Tiara to a tee, however this is a magic show that delves beyond titles and labels – it is a show with a strong social commentary and narrative behind it.

I enjoyed that this show has an MC (Sonia) who was dressed in an outfit echoing a circus ringmaster. Sonia appeared on stage a few times throughout the show, to make introductions and to almost ‘keep the show on track’ in some parts. Sassy and witty, the audience took a shine to Sonia each time she appeared on stage. I find that many magic shows do not feature an MC, however this seemed to be an indication that around every corner, this was not a ‘standard’ magic show.

Creatrix Tiara made an exciting entrance onstage, and the crowd responded with a roar of applause and cheers. Dressed in a beautiful sparkly outfit complete with a tailcoat adorned with more shiny and sparkly elements, Creatrix knew she’s the performer everyone was there to see but didn’t let that sway her from diving right into her stories adorned with plenty of magical surprises.

Creatrix Tiara’s show explored many stories – personal stories from Tiara’s childhood and family, right through to poignant stories regarding heartbreak, and various challenges (racism, stereotyping, feelings of not belonging). Many stories were highly relatable  – even if one isn’t a queer lady magician, similar narratives course through our collective lives at one point or another. Creatrix Tiara’s stories evoked many emotions throughout the show – at times the audience sat in tense silence, while at other times there was laughter and nods of solidarity / agreement by audience members. There were some moments where I wished I could have reached out and provided a hug.
In terms of the magical elements, I could see that Tiara had carefully selected magical effects to accompany the stories and I have to say that everything was perfectly matched. Much of the magic selected was ‘classic’ magic, but with Creatrix Tiara’s own exciting spin and twists on it. A highlight is the cups and balls routine, which had the audience gasping in surprise.

The star of this show is undoubtedly Creatrix Tiara, however the show features a small cast of other characters – namely Chadbury and Caliope – who each have their important parts to play and greatly enhanced the storyline as well as helping to elicit reactions from the audience. They were each convincing and played their roles with perfection.

This show was not afraid to address some stereotypes of magicians / magic – namely can magicians be honest or trustworthy when they deceive and manipulate for a living? Are manipulations inherently bad (or can they be good)? Stereotypes of male magicians being ‘creepy’ and treating females as assistants / props (rather than females also being magicians in their own right) were also explored, which I found refreshing. Despite the serious subject matter in places, this is a very enjoyable show and I encourage all to go along and see it – it’s a jewel of the Melbourne Fringe festival program.

VERDICT: This is so much more than just a magic show. It’s a magic show with heart, soul and some thrilling surprises along the way. I encourage you to leave all your misconceptions about magic outside the door and step into Creatrix Tiara’s world of wonder. Potent poignant prestidigitation!

Tickets and further information: Creatrix Tiara: Queer Lady Magician runs from September 13th-15th at the Gasworks.
http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/creatrix-tiara/

*Disclaimer: I attended the show as a guest of the performer.