Life – The Show (Strut & Fret Production House)
The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent
September 6 – 29
“Life – The Show” comes with some words of warning, “This show contains drug references, full frontal nudity, attempted pyrokinesis (the purported psychic ability allowing a person to create and control fire with the mind, for those who don’t want to have to Google) and adult concepts”. The adult concepts are immediate clear as the bumbling protagonist of sorts (Dutch circus artist Goos Meeuwsen) laments about his going-through-the-motions life. It’s quite a sedate start compared to that of past Strut & Fret shows; this is the production house who has previous brought Brisfest “Blanc de Blanc” and “Limbo Unhinged”. Indeed, expectations of salaciousness are never really met. Instead, there is a lot of comedy and clowning in Act One as this central character takes us along his journey through life’s ups and downs of love, marriage and children.
It is the show’s music (arrangement by Steve Toulmin) that immediately establishes itself as one of its main strengths. Its inspired choices and inventive mashups really work, though on paper they maybe shouldn’t. A clap-along, upbeat ‘Faith’ by Ariana Grande for example, morphs through a ‘Careless Whisper’ saxophone solo to become the percussion frenzy of a ‘Welcome to the Jungle’/’Whole Lotta Love’, GnR/Zeplin mashup. From the folksy ‘Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead’ to the evocative ‘People are Strange’, the soundtrack is full of memorable moments. And jazz singer singer Fantine Pritoula does a spectacular job in bringing the lyrics and melody of so many of them to renewed life, including a soulful linger of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and a resonating punch of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’.
Clearly, this Strut & Fret shows has more narrative than the company’s previous works. Surprisingly, however, it seems to slow things down. And it doesn’t even necessarily make things less indiscriminate because everything is kind of random… take, for example, the cast’s colour fight at show’s end. The usual tricks are included in terms of acrobatics and trapeze artistry, but also a high flying saxophone player (Bliase Garza from Violent Femmes) and a dynamic tap number from Australian dancing sensation Hilton Denis.
But it wouldn’t be Strut & Fret without bring of something new of the OMG spectacle sort. This time it is the amazing spectacle of acrobats Time Kriegler and Elke Uhd climbing up and falling within a giant plastic tube hanging from the top of the Spiegeltent, to the oohs and ahhs of mouths-agape audience members.
With its stellar performer line-up, there is much to love about “Life – The Show” in segments, if not the sum of its parts. Its cocktail of entertainment certainly serves as celebration of what it means to be human, even if it is not as high energy or as risqué as the company’s previous Speigletent shows. And with sentiment and beat of its ‘Live is Life’ ending in mind, it is easy to float out with the ‘stand up and dance’ feeling of the people.