Saturday, October 1, 2016


Produced and directed by 
Idris Stanton and Elena Kirschbaum

Street Theatre until 8th October, 2016

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Created by two former Canberrans, Idris Stanton and Elena Kirschbaum, “Papillon” has been touring the world for three years, but this is the first time it has been performed in Canberra.

The show tries really hard to live up to its promotional description as “a spectacular and debaucherous buffet of circus, cabaret and comedy”, but in reality, the naughty bits are confined to some rude words and a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment of nudity. For the rest of the time “Papillon” is a succession of clever variations on familiar circus routines, expertly executed by an engaging multi-skilled and attractively costumed cast.

Elena Kirschbaum and Idris Stanton 

Idris Stanton and Elena Kirschbaum not only share the compere’s role indulging in good humoured banter which engages  the audience from the get-go, they also contribute a variety of impressive circus skills.

Elena Kirchbaum and Idris Stanton spinning plates. 

Belying his disarmingly goofy persona, Stanton proves a dab hand at plate spinning, juggles a running chainsaw together with a couple of dangerous-looking swords, and helps out in the band.

Kirschbaum, also a skilled juggler, walks on bottles and broken glass – feats which has her audience cringing. She also undertakes some surprisingly heavy lifting for a series of acrobatic routines, most memorably in duet with diminutive Amy Nightingale-Olsen, who besides being tossed around by two of the men,  helping out in the band, and acting as a tap-dancing “Intermission” sign,  performs a lovely trapeze act amid cascading bubbles.

Amy Nightingale-Olsen swinging among the bubbles 

Two seriously ripped acrobats, Joshua Phillips and Vince van Berkel, not only provide eye-candy, but impress in a series of solo acts. Phillips balances precariously on stacked chairs, and makes walking around on ladders look like a piece of cake, while van Berkel has the audience gasping either dangling precariously from blue silk suspended from the ceiling, or performing a strip-tease while balancing on his hands on a couple of blocks of wood.

Amy Nightingale-Olsen (top) - Elena Kirschbaum performing acrobatics 

Baby-faced singer, Claire ( Minnie) Andrews opens the show with a bluesy ballad, but puts paid to her innocent image later in the show, when she electrifies the audience with a song she certainly didn’t learn on her grandma’s knee.

Claire (Minnie) Andrews 

Matthew Anderson provides the musical accompaniment for the show, surveying the proceedings with an air of constant bemusement as various of the performers take up instruments and good humouredly join him for acts in which they are not otherwise involved.

Though not as polished in presentation as it could have been, this lack of sophistication works in its favour. It’s not difficult to see why “Papillon”, with its excellent production values combining well-honed circus skills, an attractive, engaging cast and a strong burlesque/cabaret sensibility, has been a sell – out around the country. Give in to temptation and catch it while it’s at The Street.
Hand balancer - Vince van Berkel 
Chair balancer - Joshua Phillips 

  This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.