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Review: Mansion and Witch at Sydney Spiegeltent

Review by Rosie Niven

On a cold and rainy night, hundreds of Sydney-siders ventured out to Sydney Spiegelent in the Entertainment Quarter to indulge in an evening of Bass Fam Creative’s two newest works. After the success of MATADOR and ORACLE, it’s clear to see why so many braved the rain - the company has made a name for themselves across Australia through their astounding and engaging tales that feature some of the best dance, circus and burlesque talent the country has to offer.

Their newest offerings, MANSION and WITCH, are no different, and setting down in Sydney just in time for Halloween, the eerie narratives behind the two feel perfectly placed. The larger of the two narratives, MANSION, invites us into the world of the Walker family, seeking a fresh start in a new home after a devastating loss. Much to their horror, their new home appears to already be occupied, filled to the brim with a plethora of unhappy spirits that don’t want to let go of their new visitors. Each moment of MANSION is a display of innate talent from this dynamic team - from the family’s portrayal of grief through moving choreography to gravity-defying (and standard anatomy-defying) feats from the tortured residents as they sink their claws deeper into the Walkers. The performers work in perfect cohesion with each other, never allowing the narrative to slip away from us or our attention to waver. Packed with ballet and contemporary dance, as well as sensual burlesque performances and acrobatic stunts, there’s something for every audience member to be inspired by.

Adding to the atmosphere in the Spiegeltent are the seductive yet haunting performers that slink through the audience, immersing us entirely in the horrors of the narrative and feeling as if we too are unable to escape. MANSION is equal parts titillating and terrifying, drawing us in with sultry dance and ripping our hearts out with fear as the seduction takes a darker turn. There are few seats in the house where you won’t have a vengeful spirit appear beside you, either seeking to scare you senseless or invite you into the mansion to never return to the outside world.

Providing a prelude to the Walker’s arrival at the mansion, WITCH introduces us to previous residents of the house - some drawn to the dark entities inside and some completely overcome by them. WITCH possesses less narrative structure than MANSION, but at no time does this detract from the experience. The performance is heavily focused on women embracing their sexuality and inner power, consumed by the darkness of the mansion in a way that feels more intentional than the fate that befalls the Walkers. At its heart, WITCH is a showcase of some of the best talent that Australia’s burlesque, circus and dance worlds have to offer. The performers have the audience under their spell from start to finish, inviting us to indulge in the darkness of the mansion with them.

Although the performances in WITCH were intoxicating, it still felt a little rough around the edges at some points. Missed cues and minor costume challenges resulted in stilted moments that left us yearning for a little more. However, it is clear that these rough spots will be quickly polished to perfection in the coming weeks. As it currently stands, the aerial performers lit up the space beyond the rest of the ensemble, dazzling us as they dangled high above our heads and contorted their bodies in ways the rest of us could only dream of.

Both MANSION and WITCH have skilfully created a space for a variety of interests. If you love burlesque and all things sultry, this is for you. If you love to be on the edge of your seat, terrified yet unable to look away, this is for you. If you simply want to watch talented artists display their awe-inspiring craft, this is for you. Make sure to be on your guard though - or you might be the next victim of the mansion and its inhabitants.

Image Supplied


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