BRIEFS: Close Encounters
Review by Franco Milazzo
With sci-fi themes interspersing this erotic show, it’s a surprise that Briefs’ Close Encounters wasn’t titled The Big Bang.
The all-male Australian troupe return to London with their first show in, oh, forever. Their Second Coming production has been packing out the Underbelly Festival’s Paradiso Spiegeltent since 2013 with very little variety other than in the occasional change of personnel.
Close Encounters: The same basic ingredients of jaw-dropping drag, sexualised circus thrills and political stand-up are here but polished and turned up to 11. This is one part Barbarella and one part Moulin Rouge with more than a few nods to vogue balls.
Constant source of joy
Take for example the costumes which are a constant source of joy. and goes from simple white straitjackets to crazy out-of-this-world outfits that wouldn’t be out-of-place in The Fifth Element. Many of these end up on the stage floor, stripped off in as much style as the clothing and accompanied with elegant and sensual choreography.
Leading from the front are off-stage couple Fez Fanaana and Captain Kidd. As part of circus company Casus, Fanaana’s brother Nate has already had a hand in a production which has graced the Spiegeltent in 2017 but the two shows could not be more different. While Driftwood was an abstract study in human relationships with minimal props, Close Encounters is an all-gun-blazing attack on the senses populated by scientists, spacemen and fabulous aliens from across the galaxy.
The big top antics are almost as eye-popping as the outfits. The high point is an aerial hoop routine in which the artiste not only cavorts within the circle but climbs the rope above it and shakes himself and the hoop below like a mountain of Polaroid pictures; in seven years of watching circus, this is the most thrilling use I have seen of that apparatus. Even though the juggling is technically below par – four drops is more than the average especially on opening night – the overall impression is that this is a slick and talented bunch.
This is a huge step up for Briefs from their previous offering, even without the kind of grand finale that Second Coming had, with the concept and execution both spot-on. Those looking for high-impact circus, drag and burlesque will be in safe hands here.