Perth Arts Live is thrilled to welcome guest contributing reviewer Nerida Dickinson to our ranks with her review of La Soirée at Fringe World! Those of you who love your theatre reviews will know Nerida from other publications like Australian Stage Online, RealTime Arts and ArtsHub, so we’re pleased as punch to have her.
A slickly presented slice of the talent, mayhem and twisted humour that lies at the heart of Fringe, wrapped in a gorgeous spiegeltent atmosphere.
With around 700 unique presentations on this year’s official Fringe World program, and multitudinous street performers and wandering players enlivening the various gardens and hubs, a punter could spend a happy month exploring the highs and lows of entertainment on offer for relatively low financial outlay, leaping on Rushtix offers as they become available each day. Many people lack this luxury of time, and for these audiences looking to experience “some Fringe Festival” and willing to pay for a positive return on their time, La Soirée is perfect.
Occupying its own dedicated spiegeltent, with a disarmingly tiny centre stage, La Soirée combines cabaret, comedy and circus disciplines together in a fast-paced, wide-ranging presentation. Creative Producer Brett Haylock opens proceedings as a ringmaster figure, but no further wrangling of talented performers or spellbound audience is needed once we hear Miss Frisky’s genre-challenging fabulous vocal talents, proving herself a confident solo artist besides her status of beloved Fringe favourite as part of duo Frisky and Mannish. In a two-part performance, a dazzling range of acts follows, each perfectly paced in their arrival and departure. Bret Pfister brings a display of controlled strength in a balletic performance on lyra, gradual costuming removal revealing the toned musculature required for his act. Yammel Rodriguez also raises the audience gaze, as she lithely makes aerial contortions look so easy, rising, spinning, falling and elegantly stretching on a single strap, never losing her hat or breaking the ash on her cigar. Staying firmly on the stage, Satya Bella nevertheless entrances with her hula hoop performance, letting the rising, spinning, falling and elegantly poised hoops on steady limbs speak their own volumes for her self-discipline and physical control.
In stark contrast, Captain Frodo substitutes good-humoured enthusiasm for sultry elegance, the double-jointed contortionist bringing tennis racquets to the stage for a side-splitting, eye-watering series of physical challenges. His later sword swallowing exploits seem tame in comparison, but the entertainment levels never falter with this cheerful Incredible Rubberman. Clowning is taken a step further by Mario, Queen of the Circus, as Clarke McFarlane shares his passion for Freddie Mercury, juggling and unicycles with the tent. As impressive as his controlled juggling matches the music, his facial expressions, jaunty audience interaction and unicycle tragedy averting may be, the true wonder of this performer is his successful spiegeltent crowd-surf – in which he is truly touched by many, many people.
Clowning is further developed by the remarkable Mooky Cornish, proving that slapstick is an evergreen artform. She takes audience participation to high levels, her character Gloria desperate to make a break as a serious theatrical star, only needing a leading man to accompany her thespian aspirations. Mooky’s minor performance as part of The Canadian Ladies duo is a witty homage to the work of her colleagues, The English Gents. The English Gents are deservedly renowned for their bowler-hatted feats of strength and balance, delivered with insouciant aplomb. A beautiful strip routine, to the stirring strains of Land of Hope and Glory, reveals that the debonair aspects of Denis Lock and Hamish McCann extend beyond natty tailoring to exquisitely toned physiques. In a solo performance, McCann delivers breathtaking eyecandy and feats of controlled strength in a pole dance routine featuring a street lamp. Lock also returns for a solo number, in an unexpected performance genre featuring bubbles. In yet another surprise twist of the night, Lock’s lecture on the nature of bubble blowing, punctuated by the creation of soap bubbles and witty asides, is truly captivating in a quiet moment amidst the mayhem, the glint of lights mesmerising as clouds of bubbles drift across the stage and make us aware of the transience of bubbles and other philosophical musings.
La Soirée is a perfect piece of Fringe World. Superbly cast, precisely stage managed, strictly running to time, yet allowing the performers and their unique performances to capture the weird and wonderful nature of Fringe magic. Ideal for those pressed for time and wanting some Fringe in their lives, but equally suitable for those jaded by the surfeit of interesting things on offer in the month-long festival, La Soirée is well worth a visit.
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