For those unfamiliar with Briefs Factory, they are an award-winning collective of performers from Australia acclaimed internationally for their risqué performances that combine circus, drag, dance and burlesque.
The last time my wife and I went to see them was way back in 2016 when we were just fiancées, in an innocent time before we had ever heard the words ‘global pandemic’. That time we saw them perform at the Underbelly tent, just a little further down the Southbank, and I have to say that that venue suited the circus-based performance much better than the formality of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This time around we seemed to be too far removed from the action and consequently didn’t feel as connected to the performers: we weren’t as immersed in the event so were unable to capture the fabulousness of the burlesque and the circus skills in the same way we had previously.
Compere Shivannah announced at the beginning of the evening that they had decided to mix things up by incorporating singer Sahara Beck into the show. Sahara has the most beautiful, powerful yet sweet, quirky voice and she belts out her original songs along with her talented band, covering issues from climate change to problematic men in public.
Whilst she is undeniably excellent, the issue is that Sahara and her band dominate way too much of the show and for the most part don’t complement the action of the Briefs performers. The boys become more like backing performers for a singer rather than being allowed to shine like the stars that they are.
The bits of the Briefs boys that we do get to see are phenomenal: we are treated to some mind-blowing trapeze, silks, champagne glass burlesque and cheeky striptease. The costumes are just the brilliantly campy, feathers and sequins ensembles that you’d hope for!
There are a few numbers where the addition of Sahara and her band really work well, such as one on a treadmill where she is singing about a man giving her unwanted attention. Here a Briefs performer plays the problematic sex pest, stripping off and accosting her whilst she sings. But these are the exception rather than the rule.
Overall, I think that they are just trying to accommodate too many stars in one show and unfortunately it doesn’t hang together cohesively. I would have paid to see either set of performers on their own, but it didn’t quite work in one show.
It is a fun night out though, with some very talented performers, so it’s definitely worth shelling out the (very reasonable) price of a ticket and heading down for a fun summer evening with friends on the Southbank. If you can afford it, I’d recommend that you spring for the £30 seats and sit at the front so that none of the spectacle is lost.
Presented by Briefs Factory
Briefs plays at Southbank Centre until 31 July 2022. Further information and bookings can be found here.