Review By Regan Baker
Moorooka. Not a suburb one would typically associate with the theatre but alas that is the direction the world was taking me for this, my second of ten shows in a matter of sixteen days for the Anywhere Theatre Festival. Knowing this, I explained in advance to my plus one that we would grab dinner in the city after as there isn’t a lot to do in the area, so you can imagine my excitement as we rounded the final corner of the drive and saw the bright and inviting lights of Arcana.
And what an absolutely gorgeous little venue it was, but in such an unusual spot! At the end of the night we got speaking with (what we think were) the owners of the place as we wanted to know more about the quaint venue and how it came to be. The warehouses of Arcana were purchased back in 2010 and converted into a dance studio and performance venue before undergoing new renovations in 2020 (thanks COVID) to become an events hub. There used to be a carpark out the front, but you wouldn’t know it now as the space had been completely transformed with an undercover astro-turfed lawn with ample seating, a bar and much to our delight – a food truck! No trip to the city afterwards required!
After delightfully partaking in a quick bite to eat we slowly made our way into the venue to be greeted at the door by a creepy-mask-wearing man in a suit who took our tickets. Rode and I already had our reservations about the show after reading the synopsis and the creepy face-mask certainly wasn’t helping to ease those concerns. On the one hand; ‘former Cirque Du Soleil acrobat performs tricks on stage’ sounded awesome… but on the other hand was an element of ‘oh god, what does a one-man circus stage show even look like? Would it be weird? or awkward? Who knows!” Much to our own astonishment it was somehow all of the above. Awkward. Weird. But downright awesome.
The lights were dimmed, the music cranked and much to everyone’s relief, the creepy mask was removed as we were introduced to Melon the Human – the persona in charge of delivering tonight’s performance. In three years of writing I can honestly say that no show has started off in a more awkwardly-laughing kind of fashion than what we experienced tonight. Rode and I both turned to each other and just went, “Oh no - It’s happening,” as we prepared ourselves for the weirdest forty-five minutes of our lives. Those fears were very quickly quashed however as Melon (or do I call him the Human? I digress), commenced his first routine of manipulating four rings through his fingers in a manner that simply just shouldn’t be possible. Set to the deeply unusual circus soundtrack, Skrillex, Melon performed routine after routine of literal jaw-dropping object manipulations and body contortion that can only be described as some of the best I have ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot!
Each routine was interjected with the driest and most awkward humour that I have ever experienced, but I won’t lie – it grew on me. The persona of Melon the Human was created with the purpose of seeming almost robotic in both name, and behaviour, and once I clicked onto that fact everything started to make a little more sense. There are also two very different kinds of awkward. Those that are unintentionally awkward (picture an amateur comedian), which is simply cringey, and those that are intentionally awkward, which, assuming they have the skills to pull it off, can be very hilarious. Thankfully, Melon was definitely a good enough performer to pull off the intentional awkwardness.
While only a very short show, Robot Dance Circus was a highly captivating and incredibly skilful performance of unique circus tricks underpinned by humour dryer than the outback and bolstered by my new favourite circus soundtrack, Bangarang, by Skrillex.
This is Thomas Stewart’s first solo outing as Melon the Human after COVID-19 put an end to his worldwide tour with Cirque Du Soleil, and his first attempt at solo producing a show also. At the conclusion of the performance Stewart provided insight that he is actually a secondary school teacher who was discovered by the team at Cirque via an online video he posted. He toured with the Cirque Du Soleil team across the UK, Europe and Australia before returning home as shows started being cancelled due to good ole’ ‘rona. Robot Dance Circus is Stewart’s progression into being a solo artist and avoiding the financial necessity of going back to teaching.
This was the only performance of Robot Dance Circus at the Anywhere Theatre Festival but keep an eye out for his name at future festivals as his performance is one that will linger with me for years to come.