What do you get when you mix a bunch of fit Aussie lads with burlesque, vaudeville, dance, clowning, circus and drag? A delicious blend called Briefs.
Briefs is an award winning and critically acclaimed variety show which has travelled all the way from Australia to The Spiegeltent on London’s South Bank. According to Shivannah, the ringmaster and “hostess with the mostess” (although she has stiff competition in this line-up), the show started in a Brisbane bookshop about four years ago and has since grown from strength to strength picking up awards and critical acclaim along the way.
The group dance and-acrobatic routine which launches the show felt slightly under-rehearsed with a few wobbly moments. However, any misgivings one might have had were quickly banished as soon as an engaging Shivannah took to the stage with her convivial and quick-fire stand-up opening. Resplendent in a sparkling leotard and long red wig, this would be the first of her many costume changes which delighted the audience throughout the night.
The first solo performer is Las Vegas’ Mark Winmill, the 2011 “King of Burlesque” according to the International House Of Burlesque. Decked out in a sequined lime-coloured string bikini which showed off every ripple and sinew of his finely sculptured body, Winmill gyrates his way through a high energy boylesque number set to the 90s rave anthem 2unlimited’s “No Limit”. The routine shows off the kind of hula hoop skills that would’ve sent Grace Jones back to the drawing board and the tone was set for the night.
Following swiftly on from Winmill, the outstanding Gravey Davey Sampford performs a deadpan plate-spinning routine with maniacal obsessive compulsive devotion set to The Motel’s “Total Control”. This is old school vaudeville at its best and you could have heard a pin drop as the packed arena waits to see if he would let a plate drop.
Later acts are not as strong and the quality slips: Davey’s second appearance in a lapdance based on a “meat raffle”, an Australian quirk, does not travel well; Shivanna’s lipsynching to a “Get Here” parody, although expertly done, is the sort of routine seen in many a gay boozer up and down this country and is substandard for a show of this calibre. Although technically impressive, the strongman feats of recent show addition Jonny Domino would have fared better with a sprinkling of sensuality.
The night is rounded off with some real gems. Circus Oz award winner Natano Faannana’s incredible spectacle on suspended silk is breathtaking and showcases his incredibly toned body and remarkable traditional Samoan tribal tattoos. Mark Winmill returns in the final solo performance of the night to perform an erotically-charged and balletic burlesque routine from the comfort of a “cloud swing.” You will never look at a trapeze the same way again.
Unlike long-term Wonderground residents Cantina, another show imported from Down Under, the male marvels of this sexy circus crew are only here until Saturday. In conclusion, I must say that this is a must-see. Go.
Briefs. Hosted by Shivannah. Priceless London Wonderground Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX. 4-14 July, 21:00. £10.00-£20.50. www.