Briefs: Close Encounters
Christmas in Leicester Square
Reviewed – 14th November 2018
“These boys from Oz are indeed gorgeous, but they could raise the roof if they got their freak on!”
There was a glittery, glitzy, festive buzz in the Leicester Square Spiegeltent last night. Drinks were flowing and people were clearly out to welcome these ‘seriously gorgeous guys from Oz’ and have a good time. We were promised ‘world circus skills, drop dead gorgeous drag, raucous comedy and trademark punkish swagger’ and the audience appetite was keen.
Briefs: Close Encounters opens with a couple of cute and cheeky dance routines, drawing on and camping up old-school twenties and thirties burlesque traditions – top-hatted gents and chorus girls with flirtatious palm fronds – before we are officially welcomed by the fabulous Shivannah, our emcee for the evening. She is a terrific hostess – with the gorgeous combination of warmth, sass and glamour that characterises the best drag – and her improvised interludes provide some of the highlights of the show. Briefs’ overall conceit (reminiscent of Parliament-Funkadelic’s futuristic mothership) is a little chaotic – ‘someone get these guys a dramaturg’ is one of Shivannah’s best asides – but it really doesn’t matter, given the playful nature of the whole event.
That said, a little tightening-up of the mechanics wouldn’t go amiss. The transitions between acts are often unnecessarily clumsy, and there are too many empty-stage moments, which slow down the pace of the evening, particularly in the first half. Part of the fun of this type of show is that the acts come fast and furious, and there should be a slightly frenetic quality to proceedings for the audience to become caught up in. This momentum starts to build in the second half, post-interval, but should have been there from the get-go. It’s true to say, however, that the performers have only had a few days to get a feel for their audience, and things will almost certainly become faster, bigger, bolder and more raucous as time goes on.
The skill and athleticism of the acrobatics – special mention here to some awesome aerial work from Thomas Worrell – is a delight throughout, and, thanks to some splendidly cheeky costume design, there is plenty of sizzle and sauce to please the punters. The ‘magic’ routine was decidedly under par however, and the evening is full of moments that aren’t pushed to their full potential. Shivannah tells us of Briefs’ origins in a little club in Brisbane ten years ago, and it often feels as if the constraints of a small venue and a more parochial crowd -‘the West End of Brisbane is an industrial estate, not the West End of London’ – are still in place. The queerest performance of the night came from Harry Clayton-Wright, who brought a welcome whiff of mild anarchy to proceedings, and there was also a slight edge of danger to Dale Woodbridge-Brown’s Wonderland-inspired rabbit, but all-in-all, despite the dressing, Briefs feels rather safe and old-fashioned.
Captain Kidd performs his LED hula-hoop routine, towards the end of the show, to Die Antwoord’s tune ‘I fink u freeky’:
I fink u freeky and I like you a lot.
These boys from Oz are indeed gorgeous, but they could raise the roof if they got their freak on!
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Kate Pardey
Briefs: Close Encounters
Christmas in Leicester Square until 3rd January