Saturday, 20 September 2014

Shadows on the Stage: Briefs is back!

Australia's irreverent acrobatic burlesque Briefs has taken London's Wonderground by storm for the third year running, returning with a slightly tweaked version of last year's Second Coming show. The sold-out spiegeltent buzzes with laughter, applause and raucous cheering throughout a string of eye-popping performances that playfully explore the physicality of masculinity by bending all the rules.

There's a new cast member this year, offering some new performances, although Second Coming is still less jaw-dropping than Briefs' first show in 2012, which focussed much more on circus-style physicality than music and comedy. With sassy vaudeville linking performances from fabulously snappy host Fez Faanana, the show kicks off with a stunning aerial routine by the surreally bendy Tom Flanagan and never lets up. Each routine merges into the next, with each guy showing off his own talents while stripping down to a g-string. Or a jaunty themed sock.

Along with the more athletic performances, the androgynous Dallas Dellaforce offers a series of performance pieces that challenge ideas of gender, while the team's 20-year-old youngster does some impressive hat-juggling, yoyo-twirling and Rubik's Cube-solving. Other highlights include the evil monkey-boy's staggering on-point ballet mayhem. And the headliner Mark Winmill offers the two most unforgettable routines: as a trashy, bikini-clad dog owner (brace yourself for the punchline) and then delivering an outrageous climactic trapeze routine, which involves a gigantic martini glass (sit in the front row at your peril).

The pacing of Second Coming isn't quite as full-on as the first show, with perhaps a few too many comedy/dance routines string together between the bigger show-stoppers. As a result, a couple of the bits feel like filler. But the sheer physical skill, flashy invention and anarchic refusal to take anything seriously make it utterly unmissable. I know I'll be back next year for whatever they come up with.

Briefs: The Second Coming runs 28 August - 28 September 2014 at London Wonderground on the Southbank.

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