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  • Chloe Eichler

Review: Circus of the Night - Tricks and Bits Galore

Picture credit: Circus of the Night

Words by Chloe Eichler (they/she) 


The circus is in town, but it might be a little different than you remember…

 

In a mesmerising hour at the Fringe Bar, “Circus of the Night” presents a variety of classic circus acts - juggling, knife tricks, acrobatics - alongside the glamour, sequins, and risqué fun of burlesque. With these ‘tricks and bits’ promised by the charismatic host, this show is a match made in heaven.

 

And of course, what better way to start the show than with some bits? Allikins Rose’s performances are bombastic, captivating, and cheeky (literally). With layers upon layers of sequins, feathers, lace, and silk, they easily have the most extravagant costumes. Seriously, if I had a list of all the fabrics I associate with burlesque, I could tick off pretty much all of them with just Allikin's first act. But the best part of their performances is the silliness - an often neglected part of burlesque. The silliness invites the audience to let themselves go and have a great time, and it absolutely works without undercutting the sexiness.

 

From the other half of the show’s initial promise, there are the tricks. The ease and informality with which Matthias Goed introduces himself to the audience is merely a ruse, behind which sits some ambitious circus tricks that must take years to master. From spinning flaming knives on his forehead (technically, the tea lights hanging from the swords were flaming) to standing on a balance board on top of another balance board, the once-rowdy audience was stunned into nail-biting silence. There was a moment when the handle came off one of his knives - it may or may not have been a bit, but it played off well regardless.


The next circus act is Lisa Komatsubara, one of Aotearoa’s top jugglers, who begins her act without a word. Juggling seamlessly with three balls, then four, then five - all in time to the music - was incredible. But as impressive as the act is, it’s not quite tonally cohesive with the rest of the show - the lack of costume and flair was made more pronounced by the fact that it was right after the flashiness of Allikins Rose’s performance. Not only would Lisa’s act benefit from a more spectacular presentation, an act which requires that level of skill deserves to be presented well.


As well as producing the show, Nicole Maisley (AKA Athena Rose) also stole it. With the perfect balance of tricks and bits (and perfect balance itself), she was utterly captivating. Spinning around on an aerial hoop in the first act and aerial loops in the second act, the grace and strength, but most importantly the effortlessness of her performance was astounding. It was majestic AF.

 

And the host, Zane Jarvie, was the glue that held it all together - while audiences often freeze up at the prospect of their participation, Jarvie is a professional at making an atmosphere that was equal parts comfortable and engaging. While the performers are preparing backstage, he serves us up a tight five to divert our attention, made all the better by the willingness and energy of the crowd - only in Wellington would Some Random Guy eagerly volunteer to drink beer from a sippy bottle attached to the belt of a man with plasters over his nipples because he’d been ‘a good little adult’.

 

The music and lighting cues were simple but seamless, and the Fringe Bar was a fantastic choice of venue - there was plenty of space for the performers to move around, but it still had the intimate feeling of what I imagine cabaret shows in the past were like. Despite there being a couple of slip-ups (which were played off very well), and a bit of a sightline issue for the back half of the crowd, they were more than made up for by the jaw-dropping, oh-my-god-how-are-they-doing-that viewing experience that you can only get from a circus.

 

Circus of the Night was fun, fresh, and as risqué as it was impressive. To me, the secret of the show is this - the nail-biting tricks make you want to look away, but the bits and the costumes make sure your eyes never leave the stage.

 

Unfortunately, they’ve packed up their tent for the time being, but Circus of the Night will be returning to Fringe Bar on March 28th - and whether you’re there for the tricks, the bits, or a little bit of both, this show is entertaining as hell. 


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