Theatre Review: Briefs: Close Encounters

Image John Tsiavis

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and just as I’m wondering how best to survive the sheer bloody misery of the season, even whether survival is the best outcome, along come the boys from Briefs to sprinkle their unique blend of stardust.

Their sleigh has arrived in the nick of time, and typically, the sackful of goodies they unwrap contains more than a few surprises.

Billed as Boylesque, Briefs, an Australian dance troupe directed and led by the fiercely non-binary Fez Faanana, have landed their glittery starship-a go-go in Leicester Square’s Christmas Market and grabbed the season by the baubles.

Ostensibly these boys have descended to offer the hope of a Christmas “future” where narrow definitions of what’s possible are jettisoned in favour of the fabulous, the frivolous and the frankly fantastic.

Combining daring aerial ballet (executed to perfection by Thomas Worrell), modern dance and political performance art with such high-camp that the sparkly Spiegeltent in which it takes place becomes the mothership, Close Encounters in equal parts Vegas and Monty Python’s Existential Flying Circus, with added va-va-voom.

A loose narrative interweaves a series of increasingly bizarre tableaux that includes mad-scientist (Louis Briggs) expertly juggling with balls and a Rubic’s cube, acrobatics, fan dancing in 6” heels, and a deeply moving, utterly breath taking, pas-de-deux danced to Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill.

Just try to hold your sides in long enough to appreciate the strength and power of the truly virtuosic dance on display. Impure genius!!

If you doubt the dexterity involved I suggest you try to perform a striptease while spinning at the end of a rope suspended several metres above the ground.

Hats off to Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill for making it look easy, and to the entire production for circumventing accusations of male objectification by putting on a display that thrills all the senses rather than merely titillates.

If it’s not enough to sit back and gawp in wonderment at the fact that a human being can spin at so many RPM, then buy a raffle ticket from the bucket handed around – and you might just win a “close encounter” of your own.

Briefs have not just created an old-school variety show, they have re-created variety as entertainment befitting a more cynical, all-knowing age and, in doing so, they have, quite miraculously, restored a little magic to Christmas.

Briefs: Close Encounters is at the Leicester Square Spiegeltent, London, until 3 January 2109

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Cary Gee