Review: ‘London’s Burning’ Vaudeville Show

On a chilly Thursday night, I took a friend and my mother along to see ‘London’s Burning’ at Speakeasy HQ. Billed as featuring the UK’s best vaudeville performers, I was very excited and curious to see the show. Seeing this show had good timing in my life, as I have a number of friends currently in the UK who I was missing so this show was like a pretend trip to the UK. We were all welcomed into the theatre by the lovely Speakeasy HQ staff, and were lucky to have a front row seat close to all the action. The host for the evening was the sassy and brash Charlie Chapstik, dressed in the Union Jack colours. Charlie addressed the audience with an ‘East End of London’ accent…if you’re unsure of what this sounds like then I encourage you to see Charlie Chapstik in action! Sensing that there may be some newcomers in the audience to vaudeville  / burlesque (one of Charlie’s specialties), Charlie went on to instruct the audience in the proper way to encourage a burlesque performer, and conduct during the show while also hinting at what we may expect during the rest of the show. Charlie performed a mini burlesque routine for the audience, which had the audience cheering, applauding and eager to see more.

   

The first act was a comedian, introducing himself as Gabe (Gabriel)…I’m VERY pleased to report that he was a dead ringer for none other than Harry Potter! Luckily, he spoke about this himself (apparently it is a regular occurrence for him to have people point out this likeness) otherwise I’m not sure I would have highlighted it. Gabe’s comedy was anecdotal and modern, mentioning stories of drinking adventures, Uber rides and his time in Melbourne. It felt surreal hearing modern jokes in my hometown from a Harry Potter lookalike, however I immensely enjoyed his set. Promptly, a performer named Miss Crystal glided onto the stage and presented a whimsical and mesmerising contact juggling routine to the David Bowie classic ‘Dance Magic’ from the movie Labyrinth. For those who are unsure of what contact juggling is, it is style of juggling that David Bowie’s character (Jareth) performs in that film. On the rare occasions that I’m blessed to watch contact juggling, it never fails to take me away to another place entirely. The performance by Miss Crystal was no different. With wide eyes, I was mesmerised as I watched the deep red crystal ball dance and jump from hand to hand seemingly by unseen forces. I was completely taken away – such a brilliant routine.


Alex  – who was described by Charlie Chapstik has having a ‘Posh’ accent appeared on stage to tell us jokes, stories and to read poetry.  Alex amused the audience with stories of his time in Australia, including a very colourful description of what sights to expect on the Gold Coast, as well nuances of / his struggles with the Australian language (in particular the Aussie penchant for shortening words).  Alex read us a clever poem featuring popular Aussie shortened words, which the audience enjoyed. Bonza!


A charming lounge singer names Andy C was next on stage. Hailing from Brighton, he had a very strong, lush British accent. He sung some classics for us – “Miss Jones” and “Mr Bojangles”. I looked around the audience to see many people’s eyes shining with delight. Andy C easily had the audience in the palm of his hand. My mother enjoyed the pace of music and we all swayed along to the beautiful songs. Prior to interval, Charlie Chapstik returned to surprise us all with a Charlie Chaplin inspired burlesque routine – something you need to witness in person to believe. Charlie Chapstik is a magnificent performer and certainly likes to surprise her audience!

 By the time interval arrived, I’d heard so many different accents from the UK I was starting to question what city I was in, and was also keen to check a map when I got home to pinpoint all the different places mentioned. During interval, we were lucky enough to speak to Gabe (the Harry Potter lookalike) again, which was very exciting!! We purchased delicious and snacks and another round of drinks (of course!) before the show continued.

Alex “Posh boy” returned after interval and revealed he was originally from Worcester / Worcestershire (don’t even mention that sauce!!!) and I was pleased when he uttered some classic British phrases. He comes across as genuine, which I think the audience appreciates (particularly in a comedian). Undoubtedly the most impressive part of his performance was when he read out an account of what happened with the whole Brexit situation, in the style of Shakespeare (making references to many Shakespearean works in his prose). The crowd was speechless and deeply impressed.


Coming to the end of the evening, Andy C returned to the stage in style – he chatted to the audience (which I enjoyed because he does have a lovely voice) and then mentioned that some people have pointed out his likeness to a popular singer – Robbie Williams!!! My friend had already discussed his likeness to Robbie Williams during interval so we were both especially delighted when Andy C sang Robbie’s popular hit “Rock DJ”. We were the most excited audience members in the room as we sang along and danced in our seats!! It was one of the highlights of the night.

   
For the finale, the audience was treated to the dazzling and sultry burlesque of Marilyn Mocktail. Marilyn has the most wonderful smile, you can’t help but be seduced by her and beautiful, twirling routine. So graceful and playful all at once. Marilyn’s routine caused much whistling, cheering and delight from the audience. It was a perfect end to a thoroughly fun and sassy show. I’d had so much fun that I wanted to stay in ‘pretend UK’ and was reluctant to leave and return to my usual life.

Verdict: I have seen vaudeville shows at Speakeasy HQ before. Speakeasy HQ specialises in this entertainment form, and the venue sets the bar high. This show by UK performers was fantastic. I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised and entertained by each performer. If this show returns to Speakeasy HQ, please go and see it! My mother and friend each enjoyed the evening. It was the perfect escape within a busy working week.

Disclaimer: I attended this event as a guest of Speakeasy HQ.

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Review: ‘The Variety Gala’

During my very social month of July, I ventured out on a cold Sunday evening to a small bar called ‘Pulp Club’ off bustling Little Bourke Street to see ‘The Variety Gala’. I have many fond memories of watching variety shows in Melbourne, so I’m always keen to check out Variety shows that I haven’t seen. It was an intimate theatre within a small bar on a cold night, however the bar was warm, the crowd fun and the performers welcoming.

The show was hosted by Raymond Truong – magician and man of of a variety of talents so he was well suited as host. The audience were keen to experience the night of variety unfold in front of the them. Raymond opened the show with a card magic routine involving a volunteer from the audience, which had the whole room laughing. It was a great way to start the night.

Next on stage was a very special guest – a mind reader  / hypnotist from England by the name of David Stewart. To answer some common queries – yes his accent was lovely and his performance was amazing. Ever charming, David addressed the audience as ‘witches and wizards’, which made me very happy as when I hear English accents I do still think of Harry Potter! David scanned the audience, deciding on the audience members to select for his segment of mind reading. Volunteers from the audience were asked to imagine a card and think of a number….both of which David announced correctly. It’s so uncanny to watch a mind reader ‘pick’ information from the minds of others. At times this makes me nervous, however David always ensures his audience volunteers are well looked after and are at ease. The mind reading mayhem didn’t end there, with David being able to find out the pass code to a man’s mobile phone via holding the man’s hand and having the volunteer repeat numbers in his head! Given how much personal information is stored in each person’s mobile phone, I found this to be mildly unsettling (however also incredible). Time seems to speed up when I’m enjoying watching performances of mind reading / hypnotism and David’s performance seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. He definitely left the audience thoroughly baffled and wanting to experience more.

Raymond Truong returned to the stage with his classic and entertaining mime routine and multiplying balls (which kept emerging from the strangest places!). If you haven’t seen Raymond perform, then you are missing out – his performances are full of energy and he clearly enjoys what he’s performing, which is a treat for the audience to see. Next, Raymond presented a coin routine involving 2 volunteers from the audience, which garnered many laughs. Raymond has such fine coin handling skills, so this act is definitely one to keep your eye on! Never one to miss juggling, Raymond treated his audience to an enjoyable routine of juggling mayhem, involving varying objects (including his signature hat and cane).

After a short break, another special guest appeared – young Melbourne magician LJ the Magician. LJ treated the audience with some fantastic card magic, before making a special souvenir for one volunteer. LJ has some great comedy and timing involved in all his magic, so this special appearance was all the more exciting and wonderful. Comedian Jai Ashman provided the comedic break in the evening, sharing some contemporary jokes regarding his girlfriend, Facebook, and Brexit with the audience. This comedian had some unusual segues between jokes, however towards the end of his set it was clear that no topic was sacred (which was at times refreshing and at other times slightly awkward!). One of his lines was ‘don’t explain yourself to anyone’ and that was an apt motto for his performance.

The final performance for the evening was by ‘Australia’s honest Con Man’ Nicholas J Johnson. You may think that after the mind reader had a dip into a few audience members’ minds earlier in the evening that people would be less keen to help out a self professed ‘honest con man’ however the evening’s audience was ever willing to volunteer, which was great to see. Nicholas is an expert at picking out liars, so when playing a ‘lying game’ with the audience it was an easy task for him to pick who was lying and who was not. At times, it felt as though Nicholas was ‘interrogating’ the audience (but in a fun way!). A highlight of Nicholas’ performance was when he performed ‘psychic surgery’ on himself by inserting a large nail up his nose (and then pulling it out with a large hammer!). The looks on the faces of the audience members were priceless! There were a group of ladies that were huddled together, shielding their eyes from the horror! Of course Nicholas had to leer over at them, so they could check the nail was really up his nose. Classic!

This show had everything I would expect from a variety show (magic, circus, comedy, mystery, danger) and more, with some fantastic special guests. This show is also unusual in that it is free entry, and you just pay what you believe the show was worth at the conclusion of the show. I have come across this concept before, but not regularly. At the conclusion  of the show, all the performers were around to chat with and I noticed the mind reader  / hypnotist (David Stewart) charming a posse of audience members so it’s nice that you can hang around after the show if you wish to. The bar is warm and well stocked so it’s a nice place to spend a Sunday evening.

VERDICT: An enjoyable show, and a great way to finish of a weekend. This show is ideal for adults, and the venue isn’t too hard to find. I had such a fun time, I have no doubt I’ll be back for more at some point as the lineup changes each month.

Tickets: The Variety Gala is usually held on the first Sunday evening of each month at Pulp Club. See link below for tickets:
http://www.thevarietygala.com.au/tickets/

 

Tay Around Town’s Top 5 shows of the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival

In total I enjoyed (and wrote mini reviews for) a total of 23 shows from the recent 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival, which is a personal attendance record! During and post festival, many people have asked me what my top 5 shows are so I thought I’d mention them below. None of these shows are in order, I enjoyed them all equally. If you find the opportunity to catch performances by the magicians mentioned then I highly recommend that you do. Each show was entertaining and had an assortment of different highlights, with each impressing me greatly. Well done to those that have made this very short list!

  • “Simon, Shoot and Davefunkel: Backstage” performed by Simon Coronel,  Shoot Ogawa and Dave Lee
  • “Dane Certificate’s Trotting Complex” performed by Dane Certificate
  • “RanDom” performed by Dominic Chambers
  • “Nick Kay: Up Close and Personal” performed by Nick Kesidis
  • “Max Maven” performed by Max Maven

Thanks to all the readers, magicians and friends who have read and supported this blog so far and who have sent me encouraging comments and messages. Your support and comments are always appreciated. Much love.

Mini Review: ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ Final 2016 edition

The final show for the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival was a stellar performance of “Best of the Magic Fest”. Consistently selling out over the years, audience members seem to know that this final show of the festival means ‘anything goes’ among the performers. This show also brings plenty of surprises as guest performers are often thrown into the mix with the performers who had already been announced. Nicholas J Johnson hosted (as always) a fast paced and fun show for the closing of the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival.

A bunch of friends and I sat up the back and laughed and cheered on some of our favourite magicians as they presented thoroughly entertaining magic to an excited full house. Cards and coin magic seemed to dominate the evening, with offerings from Tim Ellis, Nick Kay and Raymond Truong stunning the audience and gathering more excitement from the crowd as the show progressed. I was particularly delighted to see some whimsical magic from the charming (and suavely dressed) young magician David Chandler who magically transformed the audience into a crowd of 5 year olds as he presented some storytelling magic. After all, everyone loves a good story! LJ the magician (another young star on the magic scene) presented some witty magic that he regularly presents on the streets of Melbourne. Last but not least, there was a magical showdown between the stars of the magic duo ‘Dom and Dumber’ (Dominic Chambers and Bayden Hammond) who each regarded their mind reading abilities to be superior. Their task was to read the minds of the assistants at the close up table and be the first to guess a word the assistant was thinking of. The magical showdown did not disappoint, and the evening ended with all audience members laughing and wanting to see more.