Thursday, March 5, 2015

VELVET at the Adelaide Fringe 2015

VELVET at The Vagabond in The Garden of Unearthly Delights . Adelaide Fringe 2015

Directed by Craig Ilott Designer James Brownie. Choreographer Lucas Newland. Lighting Matt Marshall. Produced by Virginia Hyam for Organised Pandemonium

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Velvet in The Vagabond at the Garden of Unearthly Delights at the Adelaide Fringe
Photo by Sam Oster

WOW! What an introduction to this year’s Adelaide Fringe! In a loud, explosive and dazzling display of disco meets variety, energy, talent and sheer effervescence make Velvet a must see, not to be missed hit of the Fringe. The show’s five star rating preceded my visit to soak up the offerings of the Adelaide Festival and the Fringe. And with Velvet, I couldn’t have hoped for more to start the journey.

Set in The Vagabond circus tent in the Fringe’s Garden of Unearthly Delights Velvet, greets the audience with pulsating lighting, designed by Matt Marshall and the deft hands of DJ and dynamic drummer, Joe Accaria. A lone figure (Brendan Maclean), in shirt and tie and clutching a ukulele case, stands forlornly in a single spot. Suddenly, his solitude is shattered by the enticing appearance of exotic, glamourous, seductive and free spirited characters to transport him through a whirling, dizzying, discotheque world of sheer abandonment and free will.

Marcia Hines and Brendan Maclean
Photo by Sam Oster

 Bellboy, Mirko Koeckenberger discards his uniform to entrance with a balancing act upon a tower of cases. Aerialists, Stephen Williams and Emma Goh invite him to soar to new heights in a breathtaking display of agility, strength and grace. Burlesque performer, Perle Noire, teases his male fantasy with the promise of sexual liberation in a provocative and mischievous striptease that concludes with tribal liberation to the rhythmic brilliance of Accaria’s drumming. However Perle Noire’s striptease sits less easily within the cabaret world of circus and disco. Sliding provocatively with teasing posturing into Maclean’s fantasy world, it conjures the sexual longing of the hot-blooded male and a challenge to inhibition, but in a show so pulsating with energy, physical skill and grace and dance-enticing numbers it seemed something of a distraction.

Legendary pop Diva, Marcia Hines, resplendent in a figure-hugging gold dress and exciting with the power of a voice that has lost none of its magic through the years, guides Maclean’s lost soul through the possibilities of his transformation. She is backed by the astounding vocal power and electrifying energy of singers Chaska Halliday and Rechelle Mansour.
Stephen Williams in Velvet with Marcia Hines,Chaska
Halliday and Rechelle Mansour
Photo by Sam Oster

Velvet’s collection of artists is pure 9 carat gold, and under Craig Ilott’s tight and exuberant direction, the show recaptures the mesmerizing, possessed world of the disco floor. None captures this spirit of surprise and amazement more than hula hoop artist, Craig Reid. It is astonishing enough that a man should be so skillful in his art of twisting, turning and gyrating the incandescent hula hoops about his entire body, but that he should also not exhibit the physical litheness nor muscularity of customary performers offers a clever challenge to preconception. Nonetheless his mastery of the hoops is to be seen to be believed.

The songs will be familiar to those who have lived through and loved the disco age. But listen carefully. They trace the central character’s journey of transformation, with numbers such as Enough is Enough and It’s Raining  Men. Most telling is Brendan Maclean’s soulful rendition of the Bee Gees classic Staying Alive. At the end of the show and after a momentary transformation of wonderment and liberation, he remains alone, singing with reflective longing for a world that is just beyond his reach, magical, mysterious and transitory. And yet, in the sheer rapture, joyfulness and free spirited eruption of possibility there is the possibility of release from the inhibitions that bind us to convention and conformity.
Brendan Williams with Marcia Hines. Photo by Sam Oster
The spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the show speaks for itself. For a little over an hour, we were all transformed by the smooth seduction and dynamic vibrancy of Velvet.  Velvet will be touring to Sydney and Brisbane after its triumphant sell-out season in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. This is an unearthly delight that you will not want to miss.