Review: Elixir at The Underbelly Spiegeltent
Australia: land of BBQs, Kangaroos, and... really great acrobats.
I’ve decided I’d really quite like to go to Australia.
Not for the weather or the landscape or the food – though I’m sure that’s all delightful – but because there seems to be something in the air there which makes for really fucking good alternative entertainment. From the Tap Pack to the lovely boys of Briefs, we’ve gotta lotta love for acts from Down Under. And this week it’s the turn of Head First Acrobats.
All pictures, CREDIT: Matilda Temperley
Thomas Gorham, Rowen Thomas, and Cal Harris are a Melbourne-based trio whose blend of old-school slapstick and gravity-defying acrobatics has gained them plaudits from all over the world. We turned out to watch “Elixir”, their fun-packed, laugh-fuelled, zombie-filled show, which won them Best Cabaret at the Brighton Fringe in 2015.
Unlike a lot of circus productions, Elixir has a clear and coherent narrative arc. Whereas Soap (which we saw on the same night) was a series of small pieces linked by a bathtub, Elixir tells the (fairly ridiculous) story of three scientists on the hunt for the elixir of life…who accidentally create a zombie in the process. And what scientist hasn’t been down that road, am I right?
What did I think of the show? It was daft. Daft beyond belief – but so incredibly fun at the same time. Gorham, Thomas, and Harris so clearly have a fantastic time mucking about with each other, and that sense of enthusiasm is communicated to the audience from the moment you sit down.
A smaller set up than for Soap, it felt like a much more intimate show – and the audience freaking loved it. A few weeks ago, we spoke to cabaret expert, Paul L Martin, about what constitutes a cabaret, and his definition was the lack of a “fourth wall”, where the performer on-stage can be said to reach past the footlights and form some connection with their audience.
Well, these guys fit the bill perfectly. Especially Rowan Thomas, whose clowning formed the perfect link between the audience and the stage. While Harris and Gorham remained (more or less) in character, Thomas flitted maniacally between them and us, disturbing the storyline at every turn. The effect was – simply put – totally bonkers.
We loved it.
Perhaps most importantly, all three are real acrobatic talents. Breakdancing Gorham had a gasp-inducing piece featuring the Washington trapeze (that is, a trapeze which you swing on, several metres above the audience…balanced on your head!), Cal Harris managed to make climbing a ladder something I would pay to watch, and Rowan Thomas gave me everything I would ever want to see from a Cyr Wheel performance. Skill, drama and a sense of humour – these three have them all in spades.
In fact, the whole show has the feeling of a street performance – the same high energy, audience interaction, and sense of spontaneity. It feels as though three cheeky lads with mad skills have broken into the Spiegeltent and stolen the stage. Plus, there are zombies – what more could you want?
So, if you’d like a taste of Australia’s finest, put down that can of Fosters and pick up a ticket to see Elixir – on at the Underbelly until June 23rd.
And did we mention they take their shirts off?