Close Encounters (Briefs Factory)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre
May 4 – 7
One of the typically-bad things about opening nights is that shows often start annoyingly later than scheduled (especially on a school night). One of the good things, however, is the anticipation that can build as an audience awaits the beginning. And with its pre-show soundtrack of Models, Mental as Anything, Jenny Morris, Eurogliders and Farnsy, the anticipation for Brisbane’s own boylesque troop’s “Close Encounters” is amped.
Surprisingly, the ‘80s Aussie rock continues into the iconic circus/drag/burlesque show itself, including in a contemporary dance number to the sounds of Australian Crawl’s ‘Reckless’, during which Thomas Gundry Greenfield mixes political messages with comment about pandas, courtesy of his disappearing layers of message-laden singlets. It’s a number which introduces a key and ongoingly-funny theme throughout the show… the lack of funding for independent companies that not even inclusion of a contemporary dance number can affect.
Still, while claim is made that Briefs’ “Close Encounters” has been made ‘on the smell of a drag queen’s knickers’, the result is impressive, especially in the technical aspects on display. Lighting, for example, is quite luscious in support of some mesmerising aerial rope and hoop acts. Costumes are interesting, inventive and practical, allowing for burlesques teases of flesh, especially in the Bowie-sque ‘Starship’ numbers that head the show to its finish. And thanks to Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, the music becomes an organic and very memorable component of the show, especially with numbers set to pumping ‘Ride on Time’ type tunes.
“Close Encounters” contains no narrative thread, but rather presents a melting pot of eclectic artistic ideas and numbers with nod to the traditions of burlesque. From a Kate Bush dance showcase to juggling for science, nothing particularly fits, yet everything works well. And performers all ooze appeal as well as skill in their particular crafts. Fez Fa’anana is a wicked and witty host(ess), beared, beautiful and far from the Rugby League player of parental preference, while Thomas Worrell’s aerial performances make for some spectacular and graceful hold-your-breath moments. Dale Woodbridge-Brown, meanwhile, presents as an engaging jester or sorts, initially moving about the cabaret-seated crowd in search of some strategically placed and precisely timed old school twin bell alarm clocks.
Audience interaction is nothing to be alarmed about, however, (#seewhatIdidthere) and is all in keeping with show’s self-deprecating sense of fun. And when a raffle ticket winner is taken on stage for receipt of her ‘something very special’ prize, not only is everyone ‘jealloous’, but in fits of laughter at her antics in interaction with the Briefs boys. It’s easy to appreciate why the fiercely Brisbane group of artists (beginning in 2008 in a West End speakeasy) has sold out their season of shows ahead even of opening night.
This is a ragtag group of multi-skilled performers (especially in heels) of which Brisvegas should be proud. Not only do the Briefs boys put the tease in strip, but their skills are astounding as they deliver on their start-of-show promise to blow audience minds. Filled with spectacle and provocation, the show is far from subtle, but this is what makes it both brilliant and absolutely infectious. With vaudeville, burlesque, clowning, circus and dance, there is sure to be something for everyone in “Close Encounters”, apart from those who may be easily offended. And the style of its substance is such that in watching, you will want to be up dancing along with them…. even on a school night.