First up – props to the Spiegeltent staff. Reserved tickets had gone missing, calls were made and tickets were authorised, all done calmly and with grace. A big thank you, box office angel.
As for the Wau Wau Sisters... I've only experienced the Spiegeltent once before and that was to see Camille O'Sullivan, and what a night of charm and elegance that was. Such a deft manipulation of emotion through music, song and story-telling so befitting this quite magical venue.
As for the Wau Wau Sisters... if I'm giving the impression that I'm stuck for words here, it's probably because I'm a bit stuck for words. Audacious comes to mind. Waudacious. Charm and elegance not so much. In-your-face comes to mind. Ballsy is good, if ironic. Boobs keeps bouncing about in my mind. And for some reason I have the inexplicable urge to go to Tasmania. Of course I'll need a map to find my way around...
Okay, yeah, the girls perform a lot of the show starkers, which is fine because they are a couple of well-toned, athletic types who need a lot of physical strength throughout the show, not to mention strength of character. You hear about the nudity (explained in passing and without the slightest shred of credibility by their luggage being lost in transit but the show must go on) but you kind of expect it to be a fleeting tease. Not so. They are simply there, they're bare, and they're totally at ease with that as they sing and dance, balance and trapeze. Much of the humour comes from the fact that they are naked, and much of it has that did-she-really-just-say-that factor. It's not for the easily shocked, but it is for the good natured lovers of quality, earthy humour. Some of the funniest one-liners involved body parts sticking with determination to other body parts, where among the crowd's laughter people actually said things like "Did she really just say that?" Some of it was in reference to their white trash upbringing with country and western songs like I'll Cut The Coke If You Cut The Cheese. No one in this very mixed audience was offended because, I think, the nudity wasn't sexual. It was natural. Playful. Oh and educational – one of the girls pointed out to some of the younger male audience members that it might come as a shock to them that women actually do have pubic hair and that it doesn't actually grow naturally in the shape of lightning bolts.
The guitar work is adequate without being polished, but then everything about The Wau Waus is like that. The balancing and acrobatics are as shaky and amateur-looking as it can get – although of course, great skill is required to achieve this level of clown-dom. Likewise the songwriting doesn't have the magical charm of the songs performed by Camille, but neither are they supposed to; The Wau Waus are here to make us laugh, and in that they succeed admirably.
There is audience interaction that is at times hilarious, if terrifying for the audience members interacted with. A highlight involved a kind of reverse strip/clothes swap with two hirsute audience members – and it was a source of conjecture between my plus one and I as to whether these guys were genuine or plants. The Dreaded One (so named for her fluro dreadlocks) believes the men were genuine audience members. I am more cynical. But in the end it doesn't matter because it's entertainment, and it worked.
The show ended with a very early AC/DC track, Big Balls, which perfectly captures the irreverent tone of the show, and Cold Chisel's Ke Sanh, a rousing number that got a few people up and dancing. (I wonder if the Wau Waus are aware of the fact that both lead singers Jimmy Barnes and Bon Scott's paths crossed briefly when both were young men... some musical trivia for you).
Next time the sisters come to town and kick open the saloon doors, pay attention. They nude up, get down and have fun.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents
The Wau Wau Sisters are Naked As The Day They Were Born Again!
Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent, Melbourne
Date: Monday 20 February 2012