Which came first: the Spiegeltent, or the Twisted Vaudeville Circus? The two seem tailor-made for each other; both rely on their yesteryear charms to take us to a place where we can catch a glimpse of the past in the Spiegeltent mirrors. It’s an intimate space to house a whole circus troupe, but never mind – the closer the better, especially when the ladies strip down to their pasties, and the men down to their tattoos.
The Twisted Vaudeville Circus has a number of offerings in this year’s Fringe, and Sideshow Macabre is one of their main attractions. Indeed, it is likely the best representation of all the acts that make up Twisted Vaudville Circus: burlesque artists, acrobats, drag queens, magicians, a snake lady, and guys who poke themselves with various metal objects and bleed on cue. They’ve got their bases covered with these characters, even when their ladies are mostly uncovered.
Sideshow Macabre starts off with all the characters scattered across the stage and around the Spiegeltent, looking forlorn and apparently waiting for a boat to take them to their next destination. They waited, so we waited too; but for what – a sound cue, or for the emcee to speak up, or for the last stragglers to take their seats? Once we got a good long look at them, they left the scene, without a word or an explanation.
What followed was one act after another, again without much of an explanation, through-line, or context. The growling emcee sauntered on occasionally to offer his musings on life, but he wasn’t there to play host. No, we were left on our own to make sense of things. This would have been fine had the individual acts made more of an effort with their entrances and exits. It could have been more satisfying to see some kind of link between sets, however tenuous. But each act simply came on, did their bit, and left.
It must also be said that there were a few tech problems that made the show feel clunky and patched together. Some of the sound cues happened too soon, or ended too abruptly, or went on too long. And the trapeze artists and acrobats were lit by a light that was, quite frankly, aggressive in its brightness, to the point where house right audience had to risk temporary blindness to watch the artists. This was exceedingly uncomfortable – almost as uncomfortable as watching the guy with the hooks in his back separate from his skin.
In the end, I wished the spectacle had been even more macabre in tone. This is a talented group of performers, and in isolation, each one held their own. They obviously have a taste for the twisted, but are a bit timid in their approach. Hopefully they’ll find a ringmaster who can rally this troupe, and push it even further down the freaky path it’s already on.
Twisted Vaudeville Circus presents
Venue: De Parel Spiegeltent Urban Orchard, Northbridge
Date: 20 – 23 Feb, 2013
Part of Perth Fringe World 2013