Briefs, the gender bending circus/burlesque troupe that started life in a Brisbane warehouse, returns to the South Bank for another long-term stay at the London Wonderground. They’re occupying the slot left vacant by the critically-acclaimed Limbo, which means they have some rather big shoes to step into.
While the recent iCloud hack exposed acres of female flesh to the world, Briefs are here to redress the balance with an all-male crew of hot hunks short on clothing and long on talent. London is not bereft of opportunities to ogle the less fair sex — especially now that we have Boylexe and Circus of Men doing the rounds as well as next year's inaugural London Boylesque Festival to look forward to — but only Briefs has the benefit of the wonderful Spiegeltent venue which packs up shop at the end of the month.
With a pair of burlesque kings as well as two drag queens, Briefs: The Second Coming is not far off a royal flush. Captain Kidd (Mark Winmill) and Evil Hate Monkey (Adam Krandle) won the globally recognised ecdysiast titles in 2010 and 2011 respectively and both effortlessly tease and please the crowd while exhibiting impressive physical skills.
The troupe’s trannies are a mixed bag however. Born Ioanne Efeso Sidney Fa’anana in New Zealand, Briefs’ founder Fez Faanana has left both her name and birthplace behind and has branched out into comedy, theatre and drag. She brings all three into play here, effectively holding the show together as acts prepare behind her while partaking in the ensemble pieces. Her solo number as a deliberately bad magician who is all props and no chops is amusing, but overall her banter is patchy and the brash Aussie witticisms sometimes fly shy of their target. Meanwhile, comrade-in-camp Dallas Dellaforce misses the mark entirely with her two solo spots contributing to a mid-show fizzle.
Rounding out the cast are the young and strapping Thom Worrell and Louis Biggs, two muscle-bound fellows that pump the show with all kinds of wow factor. Neither is just a pretty face, mind: their aerial and ground-based circus displays are fast, fluid and a joy to watch.
All six work well together during the ensemble pieces from the brilliant opening fan dance to the closing dance. Having said that, a dog show skit which eventually descends into outrageous scat antics is out of step with the generally genial nature of The Second Coming.
The finale routine which sees a splish-splashing Captain Kidd cavorting in a giant bird bath and flying over the audience on a trapeze literally ends the show on a high. The act, though, epitomises the unbalanced nature of an evening in which the excellent circus acts provide far more thrills and spills than its burlesque or drag attractions.
Briefs will be around at the London Wonderground until 28 September. Tickets are £16.50 (£15.00 concessions, £21.50 for Wonder seats). Full information can be found on the London Wonderground website. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.