The tradition of burlesque in some form is all likelihood as old as humans have graced this planet. The term itself came to fashion in the 17th century from an Italian term meaning mockery. Although the first visions of burlesque are that of seduction and a sexual tease, indeed burlesque makes a mockery of societal norms and has grown to also involve at times incredible comedy elements, song, dance and acrobatic feats.
What is most commonly thought of burlesque is that it is almost always involving female performers. While that may be true as a generality, male performers have continually appeared in burlesque productions, with the term ‘boylesque’ referring to a dedicated male performance.
Briefs is more than a simple all-male boylesque production. It combines elements of stand-up comedy, drag, acrobatics and, of course, strip tease that cleverly depicts the spectrum of masculinity and how each extreme, and all in-between, can be portrayed as strong and sensual.
Briefs first appeared in Melbourne just last year, with the venue upstairs at the Athenaeum providing a grungier ‘boylesque’ feel, a readily accessible bar and “in-your-face” entertainment (pun intended) that placed the audience both on the edge of their seats and on-edge at the same time. The show then was simply amazing, and a testament to the seven years of development by the then Brisbane-based production team.
The mood was slightly different at the Arts Centre, and if anything, the show has become more refined and polished after touring Berlin, London, Paris and Glastonbury. You are guided through the show by the host(ess) Shivannah (Fez Fa’anana), the Ringmaster and bearded lady of Briefs, who provided hilarious banter throughout the show.
No discredit to Shivannah’s stage presence, at times her involvement became obvious as filler for stage changes/cleaning (mostly cleaning), and although always sharp and on-point, the conversation pieces were more suited to a more relaxed atmosphere with a readily accessible bar. If the only fault of Briefs is that you become impatient waiting for more hilarious and entertaining acts – you know the show can’t be too bad.
Shivannah created a dynamic for the audience to expect the unexpected, and each male performer shocked and awed the audience with unique and very at times, very unexpected, performances. Dallas Dellaforce, the costume designer of the team, was the queen of the night with a series of appearances that push the boundaries of what is considered drag.
Evil Hate Monkey has shock value that must be seen to be understood, and successfully made the audience aware that they are not safe, even in a more structured venue such as the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre. Ben Lewis brought balance to the team with a skilful combination of hilarious character acting and athletic prowess, and Thomas Worrell’s aerial and contortion feats were one of the highlights of the performance for myself.
The youngest of the team Louis Biggs, is one of Brief’s most promising talents, showed that the art of seduction can include a yo-yo, or simply a hat. And finally, Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill, seasoned carny and 2011 Las Vegas King of Burlesque, ended the show with a fantastic gimmick that was guaranteed to get the audience wet (perhaps even more so).
Briefs is a fantastic adults-only journey that will make you laugh and hoot while being captivating by outstanding acrobatic performances set by dramatic lighting and a modern and energetic soundtrack. If you haven’t already seen Briefs, it is the perfect introduction to the genre, showing how things are meant to be done.
I think it might be time for me to find my old Rubik’s cube though…
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season continues to 18 December 2016
For more information, visit: www.briefsfactory.com for details.
Image: The Cast of Briefs (supplied)
Review: Jimmy Twin