The Dark Party

Flloyd Kennedy

The Dark Party isn't for the faint hearted, but this is one freak show you won't want to miss.
The Dark Party

A shower under the sparks of an angle grinder might sound great, but it looks amazing. 

If you’ve ever shuddered at the sight of someone swallowing a sword, or wondered how people can stick nails through their nipples in the name of art, you may well hesitate before heading along to the Judy to see The Dirty Brothers’ show, 'The Dark Party'.

But be bold!  As someone who finds such forms of potential, and actual self harm deeply unfunny, I can assure you that this particular turn is high class clowning at its absolute finest.  That old cliché, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it” absolutely nails it in this instance – no pun intended. The Dirty Brothers, also known as Dirty Shep, Dirty Gordo and Dirty Pat, have the knack of creating a mood of sorrowful pleasure, paradoxically painful and grossly gentle in its humour.

With the slightest flick of a hand or a mild inclination of the head the three silently goad each other into more and more insane antics. Nobody actually gets hurt – or at least, no blood is spilled, and the marvellous complicité between the three is pure joy to behold.

There are many ways to self-harm, not all of them physical, and while I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking a shower under the sparks of an angle grinder, it did create a beautiful display. I simply have to admire not just the foolhardiness of anyone who chooses to risk damaging their body for the sake of entertainment, but the deep skill underlying the apparently dangerous tasks they undertake. I didn’t laugh when one of the brothers chose to electrocute himself, but I noted the pain in his eyes as he seemed to challenge the laughing and groaning crowd to reflect upon their response, without ever judging them for it.

Sideshow Alley is hard to find these days, the freak shows have morphed into circus and cabaret acts. The Dirty Brothers carry on the tradition of providing thrills to a willing audience, but they do it with a unique gentleness of spirit, three shabby hoboes wandering through the dark psyche of humanity, shining a light upon our complicity in our own self inflicted torments.

There are lots of clown shows around these days. Do yourself a favour, and see this one. It’s special.

4 Stars

The Dark Party

presented by the Judith Wright Centre

at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts, Brisbane

with The Dirty Brothers

Thu 28 to Sat 30 November, 8pm

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Flloyd Kennedy is an Australian actor, writer, director, voice and acting coach. She was founding artistic director of Golden Age Theatre (Glasgow), and has published critiques of performance for The Stage & Television Today, The Herald, The Scotsman, The Daily Record and Paisley Gazette. Since returning to Brisbane she works with independent theatre and film companies, and has also lectured in voice at QUT, Uni of Otago (Dunedin NZ), Rutgers (NJ) and ASU (Phoenix AZ). Flloyd's private practice is Being in Voice, and she is artistic director of Thunder's Mouth Theatre. She blogs about all things voice and theatre at and