14 February 2011

Review: Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors
the Arts Centre
12 February 2011
the Famous Spiegeltent
to 25 February

The Famous Spiegeltent is back at the Arts Centre forecourt and it's already hard to get tickets for  Smoke and Mirrors, the show that sold out in Sydney, blew Edinburgh away and won a pile of Helpman Awards.

With the velvet-voiced gender-challenging rock god iOTA is at its centre, fans like me know that we have to see it. Leaving out his genre-defining performances as Hedwig and Frank 'N' Furter, his original albums and solo shows leave all who experience them wondering why (and rejoicing that) we can still see him in intimate venues.

Smoke and Mirrors isn't all about iOTA and surprises with the wholeness of its story, the collaboration and input from its remarkable and diverse artists and the mesmerising mood that refuses to let its audience go.

Describing it as a live concept album, Craig Ilott and iOTA devised Smoke and Mirrors specifically for the Spiegeltent; an old place that travels the world and makes countless performers and freaks feel like they belong. With a sexy-as-hell design by Nicholas Dare and dramaturg guidance by Sakia Moore, it captures the momentary ecstasy, passing connection and lingering darkness of travelling performers and draws the audience into a surreal world where time and memory hold no truth.

 iOTA is a ringmaster of sorts whose songs dream about running away to the circus. Visited by the ghosts and memories of forgotten circus act,  he is soon caught in a lost vaudeville world where acrobats refute all laws of gravity, a cheery tap dancer sings in a brown houndstooth suit, a bearded lady seduces and an old school magician makes us believe the trick is real. With a live band, who redefine rock and sex, he is drawn into acts and his presence leaves each in an place they never expected.

From mind blowing numbers like "Fuck me into my happy place" and  pin-drop moments like Queenie Van de Zandt's bearded reprisal of the ringmaster's "I'm just a simple girl" (Tina Harris as musical director has to be mentioned – and she looks mighty fine in her shorts and braces), the completeness of Smoke and Mirrors shows how cabaret and vaudeville are art.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

photo by Jamie Williams

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