‘The Circus’ in Spanish (as if you needed that!) currently playing at Oxford Street, Sydney.
The ‘circus’ is a symbolic form of art originating on the slopes of Montmartre in the late eighteen hundreds where Van Gogh and Lautrec painted. In dance it came to be identified with the ‘Can Can’. What was sometimes viewed simply as a prurient display of female buttocks could be explained as an extension of the circus itself, the balance of the circle, hence all those ‘acts’; the lyra, the juggling, the twists and the wraps and, yes, even the ring events. Arse arguably derives from the latin ars translated in English as art, referring to the zygote from which we get the concept of bilateral symmetry that describes mammals.
Understand the circus, the theory goes, and you understand life, the world and all that in it is. El Circo therefore can be said to be the philosophical antithesis of Becket’s ‘Waiting for Godot’; ‘oh, what a night... ‘
It’s billed as cabaret and burlesque but burlesque will suffice – different and fantastic.
Cabaret used to comprise a themed satirical, spoken patter interspersed with relevant sung interludes. Burlesque is similar but more raunchy and incorporates the circus routines as well as striptease. Both were liberally on offer in El Circo, admirably filling expectations to overflowing.
Here the ‘singer’ is chef, Aymeric Saint Lanne, and his backing band in the kitchen. In their off stage theatre they prepared numbers composed and arranged by executive chef and artistic director, Marc Kuzma. Kuzma is a chef trained in France with strong leanings to the ‘arts’ as opposed to an actor/director biased to food. It sort of explains how and why he came up with the novel inversion.
The ‘musical’ interludes are the courses Aymeric serves up as part of the degustation ‘for animal rights activists to be forgiven for’. They included such innovations as chili and parmesan shortbread, foam, a virtual sensory reality and other unpredictable taste sensations. The test or degustation is not so much whether you enjoy the sensation but that you allow it to challenge your expectations. In this regard it qualifies, like the ‘Can Can’, as quintessential theatre, the art of realization.
The patter was delivered by the irrepressible Verushka Darling, and what a darling, not a natural blonde as it turns out but who cares. Whether it was the Brandy Alexanders coaxed from chickens high on Napoleon Cognac or lambs that had volunteered a rib, Adamesque, to provide the self saucing cutlet accompanying the three veg, Verushka led us through each venial delight with shameless discourses on its preparation, ‘What a lady, what a night’.
The scene is set by magician Adam Mada, revealing that which is not apparent on the surface and while the kitchen is unfolding its tantalizing offerings the show’s other half unfolds from behind the roll drop pavilion set up on stage. From here emerged Elouise Sauers to take her place on the lyra or aerial hoop. She turned it into a lyrical piece of apparatus that’s ‘never gonna be the same. … sweet surrender, what a night’.
Next there came, Finhead, described as extreme juggling. Fire eating certainly qualifies. As did his bed of nails. Fortunately he escaped any dire consequences from either which seems to be where the juggling comes in; it could well become de rigueur for future Labor aspirants to the seat of Robertson, ‘a very special time … oh what a night‘.
Then comes the amazing Suzie Q whom Miley Cyrus could adopt as mentor if she really hankers for this piece of apparatus. Suzie takes pole dancing to another dimension. When asked how she manages to suspend herself recumbent across the pole, ‘I’m quite strong’, was her answer. ‘Hypnotizing, mesmerizing … what a lady, what a night’.
Then came Elouise again, now on silks with which she performed some of the most brazen wraps, poses and drops. Had one been too involved in the gustation at the time one might well have ended the night there and then with the swan song of Mama Cass. ‘Sweet surrender, what a night.’
Then Toby G joined Suzie Q on trapeze demonstrating that strength was not all they have in common. Should the two become an item, regardless of Verushka’s comments on the future of the accommodating institution, it could be the making of a family of anagrams.
Then James Taylor with Paul Bennett on the pole and off and a dance routine that resonated the Greek impressions of the Gemini twins; ‘… rolling ball of thunder, oh, what a night!’
It was all quite collectively breathtaking. And all through it course followed mouth watering course, each cute and absurd, woven into the wonderful tapestry of burlesque.
All this was set against the musical accompaniment selected and presented by Kitty Glitter, the resident DJ who went on to provide the very upbeat dance music to help the results of the degustation digest. It was open to those interested to discover just how hard it is to swing round that beguiling, innocent pole let alone suspend oneself from it other than maybe by accident.
This is a slick, very original piece of restaurant theatre carried off with pace and attention to service. The bar offerings were the only area that could do with some polishing, the cocktails were watery and the wines definitely on the sharp side of fruity. Nevertheless ‘… it ended much too soon. Oh, what a night.’
*Song excerpts borrowed from ‘Oh, What a Night’, Frankie Valli
Venue: Slide | 41 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: contact Venue for details