Fringe World 2014: Dark Cabaret review

On Friday night, two friends joined me for Dark Cabaret, presented by Perth’s own Twisted Vaudeville Circus. Twisted Vaudeville was launched in 2009, and I was lucky enough to be at their very first show – and it absolutely knocked my socks off. They were nominated for several awards at last year’s Fringe World Festival and this year the troupe is attempting the biggest season Fringe has ever seen, with three shows running for pretty much the entire length of the festival.

It’s an impressive feat – but one that is perhaps a bit much for the performers. On the night we attended, the energy in the venue seemed a bit off, making it hard for the performers to get a rise out of the crowd.

Dark Cabaret promises a dark menagerie of theatrical oddities, set to live jazz music by a four piece band and singer. The music certainly set the mood, however the show itself seemed as if it couldn’t decide what mood it wanted to purvey. At times moody and mellow, it was unsurprising that the burlesque acts failed to elicit the expected hoots and hollers from an audience which had been lulled into a soulfully reflective space of mind.

Highlights of the show included the fire dancer and contortionists the Rybka Twins, who managed to pull a few gasps from the audience. The magician started out promisingly but his energy levels also seemed to drop. His accomplice from the audience was clearly a plant, and I can’t help but think it would have worked better if he had been presented as ‘an assistant’ rather than ‘an unsuspecting audience member’.

Other acts included an aerial performance (which began as the audience was still being seated), a performance by drag queen Fab Panache (who provided a much needed hit of audience interaction) and several burlesque dances, the first of which was a male and female duo with great chemistry and energy.

We were disappointed when realised we wouldn’t see the billed featured artists. Circus Carnis (pictured above) are the poster artists for this show but were mysteriously absent the night we saw the show. I later found out that they chose not to be involved in the show each night because of the physically demanding nature of their performance – which is completely understandable – however it seemed an odd choice by the organisers to position them as the main feature of the show, rather than as a special guest at select shows.

It also felt as if their act had simply been cut out of the show – it ended about 10 minutes earlier than we expected, and when the jazz singer told us to make our way out of the theatre so that they could set up for the next show, I could feel a palpable confusion in the audience, with some wondering if there was going to be an encore or if we really were meant to leave.

Overall this was a somewhat disappointing performance for me, however it was peppered with moments of laughter and I know that the friends who were there with me enjoyed it. I hope the energy of this performance picks up throughout the run, as it has the potential to be a really fun night out. I encourage you to see it for yourself to make your own mind up, and would love to hear from anyone who does. I also think that those who haven’t seen any of these performers before will enjoy this considerably more than those of us who have seen the troupe a dozen or so times.

Dark Cabaret is on until Sunday 23rd February and tickets are available here.

 *I was given free tickets to this show in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. 

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