Thursday, May 11, 2023

BRIEFS - Dirty Laundry


Members of the cast of "Briefs - Dirty Laundry" in the opening number - Image: Naomi  Reed

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse. 10th – 13th May 2023.

Performance on 10th May reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

Mark Winmill and Dallas Dellaforce in "Briefs - Dirty Laundry" - image Naomi Reed.

Brisbane based acrobatic troupe Briefs has been touring its unique combination of burlesque circus in spiegeltent and theatres around Australia and Internationally for more than a decade.

During that time it has forged a reputation not only for the quality of its artists, but also for the excellence of its presentation skills.

Thomas Worrell performing in "Briefs - Dirty Laundry" - image Naomi Reed

Certainly "Briefs - Dirty Laundry" delivers the goods with a cast of ripped, accomplished athletes who dazzle with inventive striptease, startling gymnastics and astounding physical theatre acts, like Thomas Worrell who amazed with his world-class aerial hoop act, Mark Winmill with his fiery hoola hoop, and Louis Biggs expertly juggling balls while revealing a great deal more of himself  than is considered polite. 


Juggler Louis Biggs - image Brendan McCarthy

However it was Briefs hard-won reputation for presentational excellence that disappointed on the opening night of its much anticipated Canberra season. 

The title, “Dirty Laundry”, may have seemed intriguing for a burlesque show, but it also tied the show to a concept which proved a problem because much of the show did not support the premise.  As well, the sparse laundromat setting which remained on stage throughout the show, detracted, being at odds with the subversive glamour for which Briefs productions are so admired.

Although the setting did work well for the cleverly choreographed and performed opening number, and another in which a performer emerged from a washing machine wearing only soapsuds and enveloped in bubbles; the clever routine performed with large ostrich feather fans suffered in this setting as did several other excellent acts which had nothing to do with laundromats.

Fez Faanana and cast from "Briefs - Dirty Laundry" - Image: Naomi Reed

Then as the show progressed, the laundromat concept simply got lost amid careless stage management and extended rambling monologues from the host, Fez Faanana, much of which felt like padding which slowed the show down and robbed it of the expected polish. 

It was hard to escape the feeling that to accomodate the sale of merchandise, what had originally been a tight one-hour show, had now been extended by an interval from which it never recovered. .

None of which seemed to worry many in the audience, who were in the mood to party. However, it seemed a pity that this troupe of clever, talented performers, having worked so hard to establish an enviable reputation for excellence was prepared to put it at risk with such a slap-dash performance.

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.