Pros: Sexy, raucous fun in a circus tent that’s as serious about skill-level as it is big on spectacle.
Cons: Not for the faint-hearted. A few skits may make those of a more prudish disposition spit it out their drinks.
I had thought a sunny summer’s evening sat on South Bank, drink in hand, could not be improved upon, but Briefs might have done just that. If life is sometimes a three-ring circus, then I could think of nothing better than sharing it with these spectacular gender- and genre-bending Aussies.
London Wonderground, with its beautiful 1920s Paradiso Spiegeltent, nestled in between the Southbank Centre, Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye, is the perfect home for this glamourous melting pot of drag, burlesque, cabaret and circus skills. The spot conjures an other-worldy atmosphere, as if you are at once stepping back in time and forward into a more happily diverse, tolerant, exotic world. There are carousels, bars, food – and fun. Stepping inside the tent is like entering an alternate reality – one which is way more raucous and intoxicating than work-a-day London. It’s dark and exotic, a hubbub of noise and mood-lighting creating a mood of anticipation in what is a glorious diverse crowd.
Billed as a jaw-dropping, eye-popping evening of extravagant birdbath boylesque, Briefs doesn’t come anywhere near over-selling itself. We’re welcomed by bearded host Shivannah (Fez Fa’anana), the driving force behind the show, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek dry wit. She’s not afraid to test to limits a little, slipping in wry topical tube strike snippets, a dab of identity politics and a much-welcomed call for the audience to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the bar: “The more you drink, the more like a woman I look.” But the self-effacing charm is just that because, let’s be clear, these are no amateur drag artists. From the get-go this is sleek, professional stuff: serious entertainment which refuses to take itself seriously.
The opening cabaret act is dazzlingly sleek, elegantly choreographed and gorgeously glamorous. The bar is set high. Next up, Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill fulfils all this promise and succeeds in turning up the temperature to red-hot. We jump from colourful cabaret to sexy circus skills. His dazzlingly dangerous aerial hoop act draws gasps, the audience whooping and wailing. Before we’ve a chance to draw breath, we’re treated to the peculiar talents of the gorgeous Louis Biggs, aka, The Juvenile Delinquent, who mixes his own circus skills with a mind-blowing talent for the Rubik’s cube before doing something so amazing with a yo-yo and the male member that you’ll never think of the innocent toy the same way again.
Audience interaction is, of course, inevitable. A few lucky boys and girls are treated to some racy banter including a chance to chomp on Evil Hate Monkey’s banana (oo-er) and the licking up of some strategically placed salt and a shot of Tequila.
While Briefs stalwarts Dallas Dellaforce and Shivannah offer more traditional drag artiste entertainment, they are obviously the driving forces behind the show. Dallas is responsible for all the acts’ costumes and styling. It is a contribution that is critical in balancing the mix of sex, raucous fun with high-level professionalism and takes drag to new levels of mainstream entertainment while remaining true to its roots. While Shivannah’s magic act may fall deliberately flat, she conjures plenty of amazement with this warm-hearted, life-affirming show. Sleek performances are enhanced with stonking lighting design from Paul Lim and music which perfectly captures the moment and mood by Busty Beatz.
You’re guaranteed to tumble back out on to the South Bank feeling better about the world. Life’s a circus, they say. Bring it on.
Presented by: Underbelly Productions and Briefs Factory
Booking Until: 27 September
Box Office: 844 545 8282
Booking Link: http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk/whats-on/briefs