Reviewed by Lauren Donikian
Tender may be the name of the show, but it is also evident in the care and patience that the artists have for each other in the 55-minute performance at The Vault. Merging circus and cabaret acts ‘Tender’ takes you on a journey of love, acceptance, and never-ending trust.
Custom engineered for circus and aerial performers; The Vault is a 20-meter geodesic dome with a 10-meter-high roof. There is a simple elevated stage, with nothing to distract you from the incredible acts you are about to see. Under blue lights we are introduced to two members of the cast, who strip down to black ensembles consisting of leather, chains, and diamantes. Just a hint of what is to come. Then an instant blackout and we are introduced to the cast one by one. They are each holding a handheld selfie light like a perfectly placed spotlight. It is simple and effective and gives the artist an opportunity to give you a sense of who they are. It is impactful and when they all join the stage together, they are a force to be reckoned with. Colour coordinated costumes are worn, with each artist altering their look to make it truly theirs. From white, to red, to nude there is a cohesiveness that flows throughout the show. The music is subtle and sexy, until Bicon Queen Penelope takes to the stage and blows you away with her powerhouse vocals, original sound, and dance beats. For a space that holds 350 patrons, this performance felt intimate.
Co-produced by Missy and J-twist and presented by Cirque X, ‘Tender’ provides a safe space for its artists and audience alike. Missy, a circus, and cabaret performer is flawless in her movement. Each step, kick of the leg or flick of the wrist is intentional, and her confident stare draws you in. With J-Twist they perform an aerial piece where they are both sharing the same swing. As their bodies are intertwined, and the tricks get more daring, the trust between the two is undeniable and without saying a word they know what the other is thinking. It is a dangerous dance, but they are seriously skilled artists. J-Twist is not only an incredibly strong aerialist and circus performer, but a contortionist with a side of swag. They are joined on stage by Tynga, a vogue flipper, kicker, and dipper Tynga is a little tentative but packs a punch when they end with a shablam. Sorry, spoiler alert!
Mitch Wnek is brilliant throughout the show, with a varied set of skills his performance with the silks and partner work with Chris Barnett was outstanding. The pair have a remarkable level of trust, and it shows. Barnett is a delightful surprise, not only striking to look at but his work with the aerial hoop (Lyra) is breathtaking and his movements are so fluid it makes the stunts look effortless.
Whether performing as a group, individually or in pairs, this troupe have a bond and level of respect for each other that cannot be denied. The ease that they have with each other, the way they move together, lay on each other, caress each other and tenderly kiss gives you an overwhelming view of the love and support they have for each other which stays with you long after the lights come up. It is inspiring to see masters of their art working together to show off their abilities, to give each other space to show up just as they are. I guess that’s what Fringe is all about, nurturing talent and giving it a space to thrive.