Review: ‘Rouge – A Sexy Circus Cabaret’


On a Friday night, I was keen for a night of entertainment after a busy week. The show choice was ‘Rouge – A Sexy Circus Cabaret’ at my favourite CBD vaudeville venue, Speakeasy HQ. ‘Rouge’ is commonly on monthly at Speakeasy HQ, so it has been some time before I was able to see the show. My expectations were high as show producer El Bella is known for hand picking fantastic performers, and for putting on a great show. El MC’d this show of Rouge and made sure the audience was treating all the performers to an entrance fit for a rock star. It helps that El is very skilled at warming up the audience and keeping us all excited.

Hannah Cryle opened the evening’s performances with a very energetic and amusing hoops routine to the rock classic ‘Paradise City’. Dressed in a rocking outfit, Hannah showed off some amazing hoop styles with ease and engaged in some witty banter with the audience. Hannah hand selected some ‘backup dancers’ from the audience for her routine, which added to enjoyment, and fun nature of the act.

Following Hannah was a delightful set of varied acts – it’s a challenge to try and fit them into one specific genre, so luckily there’s Rouge (a show where the audience can see them all!). Mitchell Pitch parodied a strongman routine (dressed in a classic strongman’s outfit); and then Jess McKerlie (from Gender Spanner) performed an energetic straightjacket escape…except the straightjacket was a dress! After the straightjacket dress was removed, layers of different dresses appeared. It was a fascinating act, and so different to other escape acts that I have previously seen. Prior to interval, Kiki Carson (known for her work in the Barbaroi) collected some props from the audience (and bins from the venue) for a clever balancing routine. Kiki demonstrated such strength and poise in her performance, and skillfully held the gaze of the audience.

Interval time at Speakeasy HQ is also a fun time, as it means the audience can visit the fun rooftop (with CBD views) partake in bar drinks, or even wait for the Candy Girls to come and visit them with alcoholic or candy treats.

Like many show at Speakeasy HQ, as the evening progresses the acts and entertainment just keep the audience excited (and ensure the reactions from the audience get louder and louder). Tonight was no different. After Interval, MC Hannah (and a glittery pants, cape wearing friend) announced an audience singalong! To those who get nervous reading that – the audience were lucky as the song chosen was the classic ‘don’t stop me now’ by Queen. It was then announced that what we were experiencing was a sample from the event ‘Karaoke Dance Party GO’ which is also held at Speakeasy HQ from time to time. The fun didn’t end there, with the audience singing and dancing to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’. At this point, the entire audience was singing and laughing and were having a great time. It’s not often you get to stand up, sing and dance in the middle of a cabaret show! There is even a special Karaoke Dance Party GO’ dance, however to learn it you’ll just have to come along and experience their show.

After all the singing and dancing had subsided, the audience settled down to be enthralled by Sarah Louis-Jean’s ‘boleadoras’ performance. This is one of those acts that really needs to be seen rather than described, however it was like a dance mixed with the use of some swinging hunting implements. It was a show of strength and control and there were certainly some tense moments with items flying around. I have honestly never seen anything like this before in my entire life, it was quite an incredible and beautiful performance. Keeping the element of danger, Cate Great performed a fantastic balancing act (rola bola) and incorporated some juggling. Balancing on a board supported by cylinders and then juggling?! I do not know how she managed to do it! As Cate made the set up more elaborate and dangerous, a hush fell across the audience as we all anticipated what was to come. Cate ended her set to a loud round of applause and much cheered, for she had wowed us all with her balancing skills.

The show’s finale was performed by Idris Stanton, who was (apparently) the last act due to a complex setup. Well the setup was part of the entertainment, and featured a bizarre contraption eggs and glasses, and a series of plate balancing poles. Idris appeared to be some kind of circus/ vaudeville champion as he sang to the audience while ensuring all the plates on poles were spinning (not falling), all with his comedic wit and charm. If you have ever seen Idris perform before (as part of the Circus Firemen duo act, or as part of a festival) you’ll know all about his comedy, wit and circus talents. If not, I encourage you to seek him out and be thoroughly entertained! Idris amped up the finale and the anticipation of the crowd was palpable. It was an impressive act to round out a fantastic evening.

Rouge promised ‘a sexy circus cabaret’ and successfully delivered on all three, while being highly entertaining and impressive. Rouge is indeed a show you will talk about – my companion and I left the theatre, animatedly discussing the hooping, the dancing (with the swinging hunting tools!), along with the balancing and finale. With the performer lineup changing during every show, ‘Rouge’ is a fantastic and recommended event when it returns to Speakeasy HQ.

Speakeasy HQ:

Rouge Facebook  event (which also lists future events):

*Note: I attended this show as a guest of Speakeasy HQ.

Review: Top Hat Tuesdays

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On a hot summer’s night, I travelled to eclectic Smith Street in Fitzroy to a bar called The 86 to watch a magic called “Top Hat Tuesday”. Occurring on the first Tuesday of every month, this show has been running for a few years. It is one of the last remaining monthly magic shows in Melbourne, so I was excited to discover what the night’s magical adventures would hold.

After a warm welcome into the theatre, the host of the evening appeared – magician Bayden Hammond. Bayden engaged the audience’s attention and shared some jokes to set the mood. Bayden is friendly and clearly at ease with his audience, as his lively comedy and ‘social experiment’ with chosen audience members and numerals was well received.

A magician by the name of Josh Staley then took to the stage. Josh is a young magician, but has plenty of confidence and rapport with the audience. Starting his set with a humorous account of his day, Josh then presented a comedic ‘ psychic experiment’ involving lots of audience participation. This made the performance more fun and engaging as the number of helpers grew. It’s not really a magic show without a card trick, and we were in luck as Josh presented a card trick that incorporated some modern CSI references! I was fascinated and enthralled as cards appeared from unlikely places. Josh’s set ended with a large round of applause, the audience clearly enjoying his magic.

The card theme continued with Bayden, who reappeared with a very interactive segment of ‘mind reading’. Bayden even descended into the depths of the audience for his effect, which added to the excitement in the audience as anyone could be chosen to help out.

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Magician Ben Sheldon appeared next on stage with a bag of candy! You could feel all the eyes of the audience members focused on that bag of candy. Ben certainly understands how to grab the attention of the audience! Personal candy flavour choices aside, I encourage you to experience how Ben can make a bag of candy very magical indeed! Along with some witty comments and interactions with (some reluctant) audience members, Ben also demonstrated his prowess with cards. All of a sudden it was interval time – a chance to grab a drink, socialise and watch some close up magic. The evening’s close up magic was performed by the very clever Nicholas J Johnson.

The second half of the show featured pop culture and TV personality Lawrence Leung. It was a treat to watch Lawrence on stage as I’ve rarely had the chance to see him perform. Despite some minor technical issues, Lawrence challenged the audience to use their imagination during his performance- which I relished , however reactions seemed to be mixed. Lawrence pressed on with his volunteer being a good helper, and a surprising card prediction and reveal was achieved. Lawrence then incorporated some technology into a beautiful and mystifying routine with the assistance of a couple from the audience. It was truly a wonderful demonstration of the connection between the couple and I was filled with a sense of sweet joy at the end of the performance.

Melbourne magic icon Tim Ellis was the headliner of the show. I have seen Tim perform before, and he is so skilled in magic that I never know what he’s going to do next! Tim’s performance included ‘classic magic’ – surprise predictions, multiplying balls and magic with money – all involving plenty of audience participation. Magic takes on an extra dimension and element when members of the audience are able to assist in and share the magic with the rest of the audience. There was a chance for an audience member to become a magician for a portion of Tim’s act, which resulted in unexpected hilarity!

Time is an illusion at Top Hat Tuesday as the night seemed to pass by so quickly. They say ‘leave the audience wanting more” and this show certainly did. The night also held some special highlights for me: Ben Sheldon kindly shared some lollies with me after the show, and I was given the job of ‘guardian of the predictions’ for some portions of the evening.

Verdict: With the line up of magicians changing each month, Top Hat Tuesdays is an exciting and entertaining night out. Do come along and experience it for yourself – this show is reasonably priced ($15 per ticket) and not too far from the city.


*Disclaimer: I do voluntarily help out the Top Hat Tuesday team with marketing and audience management activities, however I still pay for my ticket so I feel a review of this show is warranted.