For whatever reason, I missed the Melbourne season of Empire in 2013 and have had to endure plenty of slights over the past 12 months from friends who has seen it play to sell-out seasons throughout Australia.
While Australia is now home to many Spiegeltents, there is still something magical about attending a performance in a tent with polished floors, stained glass windows and lush velvet curtains. What is more special is the location of the current Melbourne season of Spiegelworld’s Empire on the Rooftop of Crown Casino (the view is worth the price of admission alone).
Director Terrence O’Connell has crafted a finely tuned performance with the assistance of choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell and costume designer Angus Strathie that is brash and breath-takingly sexy, redefining the art of vaudeville and physical theatre.
Each act is highly polished and provides many jaw-dropping moments from Miss A in a Bubble’s (Lucia Carbines) opening Aerial sphere act through to the mesmerising Sanddorn Balancing act featuring 3D Graffiti Guy (Memet Bilgin Rigolo), consisting of a single feather and various size palm branches.
In between, this truly international cast will entertain, providing many ‘wow’ moments including extreme roller-skaters Polka Dot Woman & Blue Tarpoleon (Mariia Beisembetova & Denis Petaev) who provide daredevil stunts, performed on the smallest of platforms, while Ukrainians Vlad Ivashkin and Aiusha Khadzh Khamed perform a graceful hand-to-hand adagio act in their roles as Carrot Man and Lime Green Lady.
Also from the Ukraine, the Gorilla Girls, Ekaterina Rudenko, Alona Stekolinkova and Alina Reutskawhile, who would not be out of place as catwalk models, bring a sexy athleticism to their routine, as Half Naked Asian Dude Wearing Pigtails (Yasuaki ‘Yasu’ Yoshikawa) amazes on the Cyr / German Wheel.
MC’s Oscar and Fanny (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldman) provide plenty of laughs and interaction with the audience, ensuring you’ll never look at a banana the same way again! While Miss Purple (Victoria Matlock) and Moondog (John Shannon) provide an eclectic soundtrack of recorded and live accompaniment that features some impressive vocal technique by Matlock.
If you are shy about a little bit of audience participation, some blue humour and the occasional display of ‘dangly’ bits – you may want to avoid the first front rows. Otherwise sit back and enjoy the ride, Empire is one of the ‘must see’ performances in 2014!
Spiegeltent – Rooftop at Crown, Whiteman Street, Southbank
Performance: Sunday 16 March 2014 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 11 May 2014
For more information, visit: www.empireaustralia.com for details.
Image: ‘Miss A in a Bubble’ by Mike Emmett
Review: Rohan Shearn