Empire – a theatrical review from Deb Meyer

January 14, 2014 by Deb Meyer
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“I’m not amused!” growled the octogenarian in the third row, upon having his hair fondled by a gorgeous Showgirl, wearing little more than a few feathers over her slight, sculpted frame.


Memet Bilgin Rigolo

Memet Bilgin Rigolo            Photo: Mike Emmett


He was clearly the ONLY male in the packed 700-seat Spiegeltent NOT enjoying the pre show entertainment at surely the hottest show in Sydney.

Miss A in a bubble  Photo: Mike Emmett

Miss A in a bubble Photo: Mike Emmett

A largely adult circus, combined with elements of cabaret, vaudeville and burlesque, EMPIRE is a high energy, raunchy and fun production. Performed by an ensemble of highly skilled and talented artists from around the globe, the show oozes sex appeal. Beginning with Australian contortionist Lucia Carbines, suspended in a clear perspex bubble above the stage, to the three acrobatic, Ukrainian beauties, known as the Gorilla Girls, wearing little more than black underwear and suspenders, this is no Cirque de Soleil.

The male performers in the show are equally impressive, from the Ethiopian foot juggling Addis brothers, whose flipping and spinning elicited great cheers, to the Turkish/Canadian adonis (Memet Bilgin Rigolo), whose balancing of 13 pieces of long driftwood on a single feather, was the climax of the 90 minute production. In contrast to the high energy and pace of much of the show, this was a moving meditation in physical strength, skill and concentration.

The hosts of the show, Oscar and his wife Fanny (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann from from the USA) are both deliciously irreverent. Their burlesque routine with an unsuspecting member of the audience, is hard to forget, along with their well polished routine spitting bananas into each others’ mouths. Married for sixteen years in real life, their comical chemistry makes for great entertainment.

Gorilla Girls   Photo: Mike Emmett

Gorilla Girls Photo: Mike Emmett

The New York themed show is performed on a tiny three metre wide, circular stage and in the round, making this large Spiegeltent feel surprisingly intimate, helped in part by the sumptuous surrounds of the velvet draped ceilings and mirrored walls (with the German word ‘spiegel’ meaning mirror). The live music, with voluptuous and impressive singer Victoria Matlock and guitarist John Shannon, from the USA, added to the shows’ cosy ambience and cabaret vibe.

To create EMPIRE, Spiegelworld’s Impressario, Ross Mollison put together a stellar Australian creative team, including Terence O’Connell, choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell and costume designer Angus Strathie. This highly talented team is backed up by impressive lighting and flawless technical crew who all contribute to a tightly polished and entertaining production.

As engaging as this show is, it’s certainly not for everyone. There’s no plot or any semblance of storyline; the wooden chairs are a little hard, the censorship of language a little soft, and the covering of body parts a little little for some. But if you’re up for it, this is one hell of an entertaining ride and whether or not you’re in the first few rows, like the hirsute octogenarian, you’re most certainly likely to be amused!


Until February 16

Performances: Tues/Wed – 7.30pm, Thu/Fri/Sat – 7.30pm & 9.30pm, Sun – 7pm

Tickets: Tue/Wed/Thu – $59-$129*, Fri/Sat/Sun – $69-$149*

A special VIP ticket is available which includes seating in the front two rows and a complimentary beverage

Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au

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