Briefs 2016

Review: Briefs, London Wonderground

 

An all-male Aussie ‘burlesque show with balls’, Briefs bounds energetically back into London’s Southbank’s quirky London Wonderground. Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s gender experimenting plays drew gasps at the Globe and bear pits and brothels lined the streets of Bankside, it is nice to know that licentiousness still has a haven in this historic area.

But, while the pleasures of burlesque or boylesque lies in the power to thrill, surprise and subvert, this show which has barely changed over the last four years felt very short of that mark. True, there is a new face on board in drag performer James Welsby but most are familiar too (not least host Fez Fa’Anana and his fellow cast members Captain Kidd and Evil Hate Monkey).

This may be harsh on the good spirited show, perhaps; among the short performance segments (Briefs in name, brief in nature) there were some highly admirable acts.

Firstly and the act that opened the night, was Thom Worrell, one of Australia’s leading aerialists and contortionists. Bending and gliding through his suspended hoop, he brought sensuality to his routine. Thom’s dexterity seemed effortless and almost feline, as if he was stroking and not grabbing onto his apparatus.

The next standout act was a clown routine from Evil Hate Monkey (Adam Krandle) involving undressing a banana. As Krandle unpeels his banana strip by strip, he is visibly struck with pleasure and pain and we enjoyed the awkward surprise of a man in the audience made to eat it. It also had added value for anyone familiar with Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, Krapp’s Last Tape and its fixation on banana unpeeling for the long opening scene.

But, as a boylesque virgin, we felt let down elsewhere with the lack of creativity, surprise and ingenuity. There was a hula hoop wielding cowboy, a school boy (Louis Biggs) playing with rulers and apples and a Madonna-inspired dancer shaking off her leather to reveal nipple tassels. We even had the King of Burlesque 2011 himself, Captain Kidd, who, glugging and spouting mouthfuls from the massive water bowl prop and striking poses on his trapeze, provided the finale as a sort of real life water statue.

These routines were pleasant but they lacked spark, wit and creativity. It’s strange in some ways this show is four years on the road and still has stayed roughly the same. There were no massive ideas here, or clever choreography that would warrant keeping. At the same venue we recently saw Between the Sheets with its naughty take on the airline safety briefing – that was sexy, funny, subverting and imaginative. Why not offer the same from the guys? 

Thanks to its positive vibe and spirit, the show still provides a good time and there is good patter from the elegant and charismatic Fez Fa’Anana, which brings the disparate parts together.

Briefs was ultimately pretty, but failed to stimulate the mind for us. What can we say, we want the lot – talent beauty and brains. Is that too much to ask from the boys?

Thank you to our guest reviewer Belinda Liversedge!

Briefs is at London Wonderground until 24 September at the London Wonderground. Tickets: from £17.00 (includes £1 online booking fee). More information: http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk/whats-on/briefs1


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'Review: Briefs, London Wonderground' has 2 comments

  1. 15 Sep 2016 @ 12:10 pm Lada Bonaveri Tvrtkovic

    I don’t even know how to comment this review…I have seen the show at least ten times and it never bored me. I feel like the reviewer has seen a different show that all the rest of us has seen. The fact that Briefs is doing constant sold out runs, and standing ovations at the end of every show, should prove the reviewer wrong on her opinion of a show that got boring after four years.

    I don’t understand the point of Briefs not stimulating our minds. In between some light and funny acts, they manage to address political topics like the conditions of the Aboriginal people in Australia, homophobia, among many others!

    Everyone is entitled their own opinion, of course, but I feel this critique has been moved by ignorance, in its original meaning”lack of knowledge”, as the reviewer herself admits by saying she is a “boylesque virgin”.

    I am simply not sure that a “virgin” in some important artforms should really be an art critic. 🙁
    I mean. Not for now. Until getting that knowledge.
    Otherwise we fall in the modern time trap of everyone being entitled of an opinion on the internet…but we should reserve that for Facebook and not for an important art webzine like This Is Cabaret.

    Hope not to stir too much the pot, but this review is just…SO WRONG.. 🙁

    Reply

    • 16 Sep 2016 @ 1:39 pm Franco Milazzo

      Hello!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. As you say, everyone is entitled to their view and Briefs is certainly one that has divided opinions. On the one hand, it has returned to London Wonderground for the fourth year which speaks volumes for its popularity. Indeed, the review brings out many positive points of the show both individually and collectively. It is by no means a wholly negative review.

      Unfortunately, there is no universal truth. No show or band or performer is universally loved or even perceived in the same way by everyone. The beautiful thing about humanity is that ten people can all look at exactly the same photo or painting or TV show and come away with ten different opinions. Why should Briefs be an exception to this?

      I ask my critics (like all others) to go by their own judgement and instincts, to be honest and accurate, and not be swayed by that of the audience. Belinda is a respected and experienced critic (see here for some examples: https://londonist.com/contributors/belinda-l) and I think her opinion is as valid as anyone else who has a broad experience of stage shows and the ability to critically analyse what they see.

      As for her being a boylesque virgin, there are two points there. The first is that, frankly, there are very few boylesque acts in the UK who are regularly booked and no regular out-and-out boylesque shows in the UK that I know of since Boylexe became This Is Burlexe. That means that, in comparison burlesque, its male equivalent is relatively rare seen over here. I would guess that, like Belinda, there was no reviewer who had seen more than a handful of boylesque acts but how many of them would admit to that (unlike Belinda)?

      The second point is that I would wager that the audience had more than its fair share of boylesque virgins who loved the show. Are their views (and standing ovations) to be discounted because of their lack of experience? Or does that factor only apply to reviewers?

      Ultimately, this is one person’s view of one particular show on one night, albeit the opening night. Other views are available on other sites, some of which will be far more complimentary and some which will be written by far less experienced reviewers. If everybody thought only one way about something, wouldn’t the world be a dull place?

      Reply


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