Mansion. Presented by BASS FAM Creative The Octagon Gluttony. Rymill Park. Adelaide Fringe February 17-March 19 2023
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Ghouls and ghosts stalk the gothic corridors of the mansion that newly widowed Mel Walker and her children have moved into. Philandering husband Michael has received his just desserts in a fatal car accident leaving his loving wife and adoring children to fend for themselves in the company of the paranormal and the macabre. Mansion is the stuff of midnight horror stories, a dangerous cocktail of Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Curse of the Living Dead.
Adelaide Fringe wouldn’t be the Fringe without its fair share of comedy, circus and burlesque and Mansion boasts all three. What it is is a dance of demons, more ballet than burlesque, more hip hop than circus and more breakdance than comedy. When the Freddy Kruger masked tormentors enter the fray it is more monster mash than magic. Consequently the circus feats are limited to aerial displays of skill as the rope becomes a symbol of escape only to twirl the victim once more to the ground and the cage becomes a whirling torture chamber. Burlesque is transitory but enough to unleash the seduction of the son Levi. Mother, son and daughter are caught in a vortex of nightmarish fright and audiences watch in anxious anticipation of the outcome to their plight.
Mansion is different to much of the circus and burlesque acts that are on offer at this year’s Fringe. The imaginative conceit of a Gothic tale of suspense and horror works its spell upon the large audience and provides a narrative, albeit rather slight to keep the spectators engaged. The real strength of this show is the dance. The lead dancers are obviously trained and the ensemble choreography is tight and aptly frenetic. The absence of further narration to advance the plotline resulted in sequences being too long and repetitive. Stretching the show to an hour lessened the gripping impact that a fifty minute performance might have had. Mansion certainly provides a more satisfying experience than the usual run of circus and burlesque shows and as the audience were ushered out by the sanguine caretaker Mr. Enshaw it was obvious that they had entered an unexpected world. A published review line in the Fringe guide states “Unlikely that you have ever seen a show like Mansion.” It is the dance component of this tale of love, loss, lust and horror that brings a fresh aspect to the genre. I don’t have a programme to give credit where credit is due, but dancers, choreographer and set, lighting and sound designers deserve commendation.
If Fringegoers are looking for something different then Mansion is certainly the place to visit.