Saucy circus cabaret returns for an encore
NO CIRCUS act is without its dangers but that's what makes the art form thrilling for both the performer and the audience, says aerialist Spencer Craig.
The Canadian performer is one of nine new cast members in Blanc de Blanc Encore, the follow-up to Strut & Fret's hugely successful Parisian cabaret show which opens at the Brisbane Festival's Spiegeltent tonight.
"When you're flying around in the air there's always the chance of something happening, but that's the thrill," he says.
"You can't ever take away the danger from the circus arts but in any professional show and especially with Blanc, you'll never see something on stage that hasn't been done a million times backstage first."
Craig, a Calgary native who has performed in Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, says he loves getting up close and personal with theatre-goers in Encore, which received critical acclaim on its debut at the Sydney Opera House and a recent sold-out run at the Darwin Festival.
"Often when you're performing with Cirque or in dinner shows in Europe, you come on for your number and then that's the end of that. With Encore most of us are in almost every other act - there's nine of us, compared to 20 or 30 in most shows," he says.
"We're all very intertwined and reliant on each other, and all of us have gravitated to a show like this because we have the desire to be part of the entire production.
"I've worked a lot for other companies internationally, and Blanc is a more in-your-face, cabaret-style show where there's less of a wall between us and the audience. The contact with the public is very direct, and people don't often realise it's just as thrilling for us as it is for you guys."
Performing with his aerial hoop partner Caitlin Tomson-Moylan requires a lot of trust and thanks to their chemistry in the air, Craig says the duo is often mistaken for a couple.
"We joke that we fall in love for four minutes a night," he says. "We have that moment together every night on stage and then go back to being friends immediately after.
"We did a show where we were both doing a solo hoop act and we'd alternate every night. We made a duo just for fun and we've been doing it ever since. We've been performing together for three years now and this is our third show with Strut & Fret. The trust comes more so from outside the theatre - the trust you have from being good friends for a long time."
Diving back into the bubbly world of champagne-soaked burlesque, Blanc de Blanc Encore blends acrobatic feats with cabaret, comedy and music. Strut & Fret's founding director and Encore director Scott Maidment promises fans of the original show will not be disappointed.
"It is in the same world as the original Blanc de Blanc but it's a totally new show," he says. "If anybody saw Blanc before then they're absolutely going to love Encore. It pushes the boundaries further, there are better skills and more comedy from amazing people from all around the world."
Newcomers be warned, this is not the type of show where you can be a passive viewer.
"The show happens in, above and around the audience," Maidment says.
"A performer will be on stage, then suddenly they might be standing next to you or sitting on your lap. The environment of the tent really changes. At one stage the whole tent is full of bubbles, then feathers. There's a massive pillow fight and a huge confetti blast. It's an immersive experience for audiences in the tent."
Blanc de Blanc Encore plays the Spiegeltent at the Brisbane Festival through September 28.