Briefs: Close Encounters Underbelly Festival Southbank – Review

https://www.londontheatre1.com/news/178230/briefs-close-encounters-underbelly-festival-southbank-review/

Briefs Close Encounters: credit Kate Pardey
Briefs Close Encounters: credit Kate Pardey
Well the big purple cow may have gone up north for a while but that doesn’t mean the fun is over on the South Bank and taking up residence in the Spiegeltent for the next twelve weeks are a group of talented chaps from Australia who plan to totally blow your mind as they take you to a galaxy far, far away. Welcome to Briefs: Close Encounters.
Sometimes you can gauge the type of show you are about to see by the audience. And the first thing to notice about this group was how excited they were. The queue to get into the tent started about half an hour before the doors opened. Lots of very excited looking people stood laughing together waiting to be let in. Once in, people who had seen the Briefs boys before headed to their favourite seats while everyone milled around – all the seating is unallocated. My companion and I managed to grab a couple of seats in the front row and were prepared for anything.
The lights went down and, before anything else happened, there was an almighty cheer from the audience. Then the familiar five notes from Close Encounters started up accompanied by lights and the show started.
The next hour was an absolute blur. The six, muscular and very uninhibited performers, led by the strikingly beautiful Fez Fa’anana, perform a show which is an astounding mixture of acrobatics, gymnastics, modern dance, burlesque, striptease and high camp. However, that’s not to say that this is a gay show. There is a beauty to Briefs that transcends sexuality and makes it suitable – apart from the odd ‘F’ word – for everyone. Straight, gay or somewhere on the spectrum in between, Close Encounters has something for everyone and nobody is left out.
Just on a technical level, the skill exhibited by the performers is exceptionally high. For example, could you perform a strip whilst spinning off a rope high above the stage? Me neither but Mark ‘Captain Kidd’ Winmill does with a grace and style that takes the breath away. Mix this technical skill with a real flair for showmanship and you begin to understand why Briefs is so good. As with all things acrobatic or gymnastic or circus related, spot on timing is a must. However, one of the most amazing demonstrations of timing, which really demonstrated the immense attention to detail of the show, involved a rabbit and some alarm clocks. These were very short scenes but the ability to synchronise every movement of the rabbit with the alarms ringing and do so with such ease must take hours and hours of practice. One portion of a second out and the illusion is ruined.
With such talented performers on the stage, it’s hard to pick out a personal favourite but, I will. Juggler Louis Biggs, the youngest of the troupe, is my choice. He looks amazing, dances, juggles, does a Rubik’s Cube one-handed and even throws a little science in. And while doing all of this, Louis manages to spectacularly flirt with every member of the audience he makes eye contact with.
Without giving too much more away, I have to conclude with two things. Briefs: Close Encounters is a truly awesome mixture of styles and skills that will entertain and enthrall you in equal measure. And secondly, when you go to see it, buy a raffle ticket. You may not win but if you do, the prize will be so worth it.
5 Star Rating
Review by Terry Eastham
www.londonthatre1.com

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