It has been one of the most talked about festival shows- this is very much a show for anyone who has ever wanted to run away and join the circus. If you have tickets- good on you- these and hens teeth etc etc… for those who are wondering about tix for next to nix- yep its worth it if you can have a nap in the middle of the day- coz its a late night you don’t want to be drowsy for!

What is so impressive about many of the performers is the tradition from which this type of performance springs. Unlike many who yearn to become an actor , not many yearn to become a circus performer- or do they? Perhaps after this hundreds of potential up-close magicians will be developed- or acrobats. This is a celebration of the road less travelled and has at its core a sense of the unusual and the secret. These types of performers are an oddity still – mainly because of the people who choose to see shows of this nature- and I can’t help but be as curious of the audience as I am of the performers. I went to this show last night and there was an impressively large man holding two bottles of wine in one hand and was acting like he was at a cricket game- shouting when he wanted to , getting drunk, touching the performers occasionally, standing up and shifting around- looking like an Aussie Rodney Dangerfield… on the scale of Circus-odd to bourgeois-buffoon-odd…. I know which side of Odd I would rather be on! And perhaps that is part of the fantasy. That we feel more attracted to the circus (the alternative life) than the domestic circus?

Anyway- enough of that. Here’s the review.

As posted on www.australianstage.com.au

Smoke and Mirrors | Sydney Festival

For some, no festival experience is complete without venturing inside the magical world of The Famous Spiegeltent. A patchwork of textured glass, tiny fold out chairs, swathes of rich velvet and suede and trimmed with mirrors- this is a venue steeped in a ninety year history of circus/cabaret performance- and is like no other. This year, as a part of the Sydney Festival, The Famous Spiegeltent is housing the undeniable saucy genius of iOTA in collaboration with director Craig Ilott in a show that lives up to it’s title and it’s history.

A parade of ghostly painted faces (one veiled face) and the occasional po-faced rabbit introduces a very left of centre evening of freak show/circus performance which is completely unrelenting. Ranging from feats of pure physical strength (ThisSideUp acrobatics with Chelsea McGuffin) to songs of surviving love in all its manisfestations (Queenie van de Zandt and iOTA) this artistic kaleidoscope is cheeky and at times breath-takingly surprising. With two spots by a unnervingly talented Todd McKenney who taps his way back in time in both acts, and a series of magic tricks by Timothy Woon with his lovely assistant iOTA suitably dumbstruck and frightened dazzles and divides the audience into blissfully awestruck or squinty-eyed sceptics.

Supported by a four piece band: Tina Harris (bass/guitar), Joe Accaria (Drums/percussion), Chris Ball (Keyboards/saxophone/melodica) and Martin Hailey (guitars, banjo, mandolin) – music swings in many directions like an antique jukebox infused with naughty, saucy delights. iOTA is in command of our attention from the moment the band begins- appearing with a red feather ruff, glittering lipstick and striped socks is the bizarre fancy of a completely unique performer.

Ilott has kept the spirit of the venue and its gasp-drenched traditions alive assisted by Designer Nicholas Dare’s colour palette and sense of humour. It’s a rock’n’roll cabaret with a dark and twisted secret which stumbles into the den of acrobatic sailors, a smiling magician and an aloof hirsute songstress… but it is more than the sum of its parts- Smoke and Mirrors explores the elusive dissembling of lovers. There are parables on sex (Oh Ira), relationships (The Dumber They Come The Better I Like Em), and anthems filled with lust and the impressive four-person tumbling tricks which is based on trust (and practicing trust).

Rarely can the pace of such a cabaret balance physical spectacle with romantic ballads, strobe lights, magic tricks, comedy and deliver a show which reveals as much as it conceals- and the sleight of Ilott’s hand is impressive. Though some may be happy to be dazzled by the surface of this show of mirrors and smoke- for those who look deeper, the heart of the show reflects of the fires of lust/sex/love.