A cocktail of jaw-dropping acrobats, mind-bending contortionists and thrilling chanteuses, well-seasoned with humour.
Photo of Bath Boy David O'mer by Lauren Bath
I give few five-star reviews, so two in a row at the start of Perth’s Fringe Festival speaks well of the event’s ever-rising standards. It isn’t often one can lift a quote from the often over-the-top claims made in press releases, but the one above is exactly that, and I cannot better it.
La Soirée opened to a packed house, and heaven be thanked that there was excellent air-conditioning! Loud circus-style music filled the tent in Russell Square’s ‘Pleasure Garden’ as we waited for the show to start, building up to the loudest, fastest possible version of the William Tell Overture.
Cue spot on a life sized puppet, so big and so flexible she needs two real people to work her joints and lip-synch as she essays Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If you could read my mind’. It was cleverly done by Montreal’s Cabaret Decadanse, composed of Serge Deslauriers and André-Anne Leblanc. They opened the second half of the show with another, equally impressive puppet.
Lights up on the tiny ring that was to house most of the evening’s offerings. The English Gentlemen (Denis Locke and Hamish McCann) are smart-looking chaps in pin-striped business suits, armed with newspapers and brollies. On the miniscule performing area, barely two and half metres in diameter, they proceed to divest themselves of several layers of clothes while performing a remarkable array of faultless acrobatic tricks and balancing feats.
Then we meet Jess Love and her hula hoops. A graduate of the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, and now based in London, Love has performed with Circus Oz and also with many overseas companies. In 2009 she broke a world record by spinning one hundred and fifteen hula hoops at one time. Hoops around neck, hips, arms, ankles – anywhere a hoop can fit, Love will make it go round and round and round …
A very versatile lady, Love returned in the second half of the program with a tap-dancing-skipping act. She is clever, funny and flawless in performance. You can actually see this routine on YouTube, and it is sure to tempt you to catch her live.
Nate Cooper is impressive on roller skates. How he managed some of the turns on that tiny stage boggles the mind. Cooper is also a knife juggler. Combine that with an amazing ability to recover from falls, you have a combination to keep hearts in mouths throughout the act.
Swedish pair David and Fofo play oral ping-pong. The tiny stage is too small for them – they can spit and catch ping-pong balls from two or three times the distance, from above the stage, from the aisles, upright or upside down, give them a ball and they will throw and catch it with almost any part of their anatomies!
Asher Treleavan’s oddball stage persona is mysterious, intriguing and just a tad shudder-making. He would make an excellent zombie. However, zombies are not quite as astute and politically aware as Treleaven, or anywhere near as funny. Like Jess Love, he is a NICA graduate, further proof that Australia is contributing to the arts in every possible sphere.
Contortionist Captain Frodo, born in Norway, calls Australia home and has been with this company for upward of five years. He squeezes bits of his anatomy through a couple of de-strung tennis racquets with, if not the greatest of ease, with a whole lot of laughs.
Another long-term player, German-born David O’Mer, makes his living taking baths in public, and must have the cleanest jeans in town. However, the bath is only part of a magnificent aerial act that grew out of sound gymnastic training. He was an obvious favourite with the appreciative audience.
From Spain via England comes multi-talented Ursula Martinez, striptease artist, comic, and illusionist. Her red handkerchief disappeared and reappeared half a dozen times or more as she removed garment after garment, thus reducing the number of places that could conceal it. Nevertheless, it continued to vanish and reappear. Of course, when a performer is naked, it becomes hard for onlookers to know where to look without appearing ill-mannered, so the mystery forever remains unsolved.
Overall, La Soirée is a most enjoyable evening for the broad-minded! Catch it if you can.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Strut and Fret Present
Fringe World, Cultural Centre, Perth
28 January to 22 February (season extended until 7 March)