Review By Regan Baker
It’s the final day of the Anywhere Festival and I have one last show to cram into the agenda before calling adieu on my second stint of reviewing this fantastic celebration of local art and theatre. Glorious is the nature of the Anywhere Festival that once again I find myself venturing into unknown territory as tonight we will be lapping up “The Velvet Lounge Spectacle” at The Sideshow West End. A quaint little venue tucked away down the western end of vulture St, just past one of my favourite coffee spots, The Morning After, The Sideshow created the perfect atmosphere for what was essentially going to be an evening of sideshow performances!
Created and hosted by the multi-talented Abbii Allora, “The Velvet Lounge Spectacle” will be the 6th edition of the ongoing series The Velvet Lounge, and sees Allora bring together some of the best acts on offer from the variety circuit in Brisbane. In this Spectacle we were dazzled by seven artists who had a wide range of specialities that combined to perform a total of twelve uniquely different routines. While these individual routines ranged in quality from good to great, I had a small issue with the overarching story and the transitions that occurred between the acts. Not that I think there is anything wrong with trying to web a variety show together with a big-picture story, I just think it is incredibly hard to do well. If the story arc isn’t executed smoothly it can lead to awkward transitions between the different elements, which is sort of what happened tonight.
Pushing that aside and focussing on the artists themselves, tonight’s performance, for the most part, was filled with highly creative and unique acts. I was introduced to the beat-loop style of music a few months ago by a friend, but tonight was the first time seeing a live performance when B-Style took to the stage and hit us with a sound wall of looped vocals. While incredibly loud, the actual looped track was really cool in the way it was created just from the sounds that were being sent down the microphone.
The combination of dance routines throughout the night ranged significantly in their technical execution and ‘wow factor,’ highlighted by a contemporary piece from ClockworkManda which was set to the music and theme songs we grew up to as kids; Rugrats, Round the Twist, the Simpsons, her routine had them all. It was relatively obvious that not all of the dancers were as skilled in their ability though, but in all fairness, in probably didn’t really matter that much. There was part of me judging the slow pace and the not-so difficult techniques and steps, but then there was the other part of me that was just like, “LOL they are dancing to David Attenborough while wearing wolf / fox masks, this is glorious.”
The unique nature of the performances definitely helped cover up the fact that the skill level (in terms of the dance routines at least) were not quite there, which is true also of the finale. Masterfully created by Reece ‘Dr. Boom’ Dunn, tonight’s closing performance was certainly one to remember. Entitled ‘ Living Nightmares,’ Dunn plays a Frankenstein type of character who raises two corpses to do his bidding – the laundry, clipping his toenails, cleaning the toilet… That kind of thing. The corpses weren’t having a bar of it and forced Dunn into the same machine that raised them and converted him into a living nightmare also. The three corpses then performed a choreographed dance routine wearing LED light suits against a blackout stage with LED strip lighting and other elements all around them. As mentioned, the dancing wasn’t highly skilled, but the LED lights well and truly made up for that and Jeremy J’s LED stick twirling significantly boosted the quality also. Sidebar: I know it wasn’t really the point of the performance, but my goodness is Dunn a great actor! He projected better than just about any performance I have seen this Anywhere Festival season and his haunting Frankenstein chuckle came straight from a child’s nightmare.
Beside the closing number, the other two highlights from tonight’s show came from the knock-out duo of the two Abb’s – Abbii Allora and Abby Kelso. Just over a week ago we had the privilege of seeing Kelso perform in Pink Martini Pop-Up Cabaret, which also performed at the Anywhere Festival. I raved about her performance then (as part of a duo with Rhylee Maree) so was really looking forward to seeing what she delivered for us tonight. Needless to say, she did not disappoint! A highly-skilled aerial performer, Kelso took to the aerial silks in a solo routine and executed multiple wraps, hangs and locks with both beauty and grace that captivated everyone in the venue.
As humans I think we will always be drawn to fire, so it is no surprise that Allora’s fire dancing was a show stopper. With a range of different fire paraphernalia at her disposal, Allora dazzled the audience with her ability to manipulate a flame around and over her body in a variety of stylistic dance routines. She softly drew the flame across her skin without burning it and shocked the majority of the audience by swallowing the flames to extinguish them. Her routine was beautifully executed and an absolute delight to witness!
While this was the final performance of “The Velvet Lounge Spectacle” I truly hope that The Velvet Lounge sees a seventh instalment come to fruition soon as the performance tonight has once again invigorated the circus and variety show lover within me.