Au Bon Mort Vivant: Dead Sexy Cabaret

Rose Centre Belmont, Auckland

03/03/2011 - 05/03/2011

Auckland Fringe 2011

Production Details


Silver Circle community circus performance will give Auckland’s monster scene a rictus grin…

You will never have experienced anything like this before. A unique fusion of burlesque and belly dance sensuality with the physicality of martial arts and acrobatics, all wrapped up in comedy to revive that spark of life. Come prepared for an audience inclusive cabaret, complete with manic demons, seductive witches, zombie apocalypse survival tips, cheerleaders, laughter and lashings of light-hearted fun. 

Bon Mort Vivant, the third Silver Circle Productions Ltd show, draws on the successes of the inaugural 2009 Fringe Festival 1001 Knights and 2010 Joie de Vivre shows and combines the talents of many very experienced performance artists, stunt fighters, and entertainers with stunning belly dancers, daring acrobats and other amusing personalities. A vaudeville review to celebrate life, death, unlife, fun, sensuality, difference, darkness and friends is in the laboratory, and in March our creature will be BORN! 

This show is dedicated to lovers of life and laughter; aficionados of wit, charm and wicked fun; those who delight in play, and anyone who has joyfully joined the struggle against the mundane.

The Rose Centre (School Rd, Belmont) 
Thursday March 3 to Saturday March 5, 2011 
8-10 pm (including 20 min intermission, fire play with cast after show) 
Tickets $25, Concession: $20 
Purchase Tickets through Rose Centre – 09 4459900 or  
Part of the 2011 Auckland Fringe   

2hrs incl. interval

Circus burlesque unadulterated fun

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 05th Mar 2011

Au Bon Mort-Vivant features ‘wickedness, curious creatures and things that go bump (and grind) in the night …’ or so the press release would have us believe. Potential attendees get in on the act too, being invited to ‘get dressed up, and join us at our dark burlesque circus: a night of monstrous revelry, sensuous sirens, capering loonies and evil laughs …’

We are warned of ‘possible nudity, adult themes, horror and extreme silliness.’ An odd invocation to say the least but also, as it turned out, surprisingly accurate as was evidenced by the assortment of grotesques who trooped excitedly into the Rose Centre and readied themselves in the raked seating for an evening of … something.

First and foremost this was not a theatrical event that could be assessed using standard theatre conventions, nor even conventional theatre wisdom. The gaps between items in the revue-style format were often long and filled with jibber-jabber, some of the pieces themselves were less than memorable and the odd technical hiccup occurred. It’s not unheard of for reviewers, faced with such an experience, to feign illness and leave at half time. 

Not so for this show, however, because this show was something else. It was unadulterated fun!

It was, in fact, what it said it would be: burlesque circus. And, as such, rules went out the window, risks were taken; something just south of a two hour riot took place and I loved every preposterous moment of it.

Like all good themed circuses, the theme itself was of minimal importance. Rather like one of those padded coat hangers your granny gave you. You know what it is, but what you are supposed to do with it is anybody’s guess.

The company – Silver Circle Ltd – are old hands at this Fringe Theatre lark, having created shows in 2009 (1001 Knights), again in 2010 (Joie de Vivre Vaudeville) and a more enthusiastic bunch of multi-talented devotees you’re never likely to meet (unless you join a Tramway Society, of course).

They sing, and sing well. They dance and, at times, they dance very well. Their acrobatic skills are surprisingly good. They are fit, attractive and lithe. And enthusiastic (did I mention that?)

The circus was delivered to a good sized audience in two one hour bites followed, if we the audience chose to engage, by some fire-stickery, some jiggery-pokery and a few wines outside on the lawn.

The first hour saw an extravagance of material. Any more would have been over-kill. To coin a phrase …

First, a silks duet which started shakily and ended impressively which was followed, in turn, by something called ‘Demon Brawl’: a loosely choreographed exhibition of stage combat and an opportunity for some very fit people to flash the odd mawashi giri, flip a few uraken shoman uchi, defend themselves with impressive tora guchi and fall down a lot.  

A bit shaky, but all good fun so far.

As a linking device, and a way to remove wayward props and costumes from the stage, the Grim Sweeper was both attractive and useful. We know this because we were told. 

Overall, the spoken links were the least impressive part of the show but, having said that, the video clips which accompanied these were often splendid and particular mention must be made of the Zombie Cooking clip which made Gordon Ramsey look like a complete pussy!

The first half came fully into its own with ‘Nightmare Machine’, an acrobatic dance sequence which, while not altogether original, was skilfully presented and well choreographed. Costumes in black and gold with much lame were effective. 

The penultimate and final numbers in the first half were audience participation epics. It’s never easy to get Kiwis to take part willingly in a theatre work but Silver Circle seemingly has no such issue. ‘Satyr’s Brawl’, required appropriately attired audience members to join the cast in a rather formal, zombie-style fracas and this was followed by the first half finale which saw ‘the judges’ choose ‘NZ’s Next Top Monster’ from a miscellany of cast and audience. 

Mercifully, the garlic effect of the reviewer’s pen ensured that my seat was given a wide berth throughout this exercise! 

Part Two was even fuller than Part One but all went to time which was, in itself, nothing short of a miracle as there was often so much happening that it was difficult to take it all in. The cast handled it with aplomb, however, and managed to take a lot off as well, hence fulfilling the promise of ‘potential nudity’ … tasteful, of course. 

Opening with a burlesque chair dance to Rocky Horror’s ‘Sweet Transvestite’ the bar was immediately set very high. The choreography was excellent and the dancers disciplined, the girls were gorgeous and the one male dancer was … let’s be fair, somewhat less so. 

Then came one of the gems of the show, a pas de deux entitled ‘Undisclosed Desires’. 

Two women danced in an undefined relationship, sensual and lithe, leaving all questions asked but none answered. Were they lovers or merely partners, real, or an illusion? The choreography was distinguished with a physical vocabulary as complex as might be seen in any contemporary dance company and the dancing itself was simply delicious. 

The excellence of ‘Undisclosed Desires’ and, latterly ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ and ‘Glow Dance’, brought to the fore an exhilarating sexual ambiguity which the women in the cast were totally at home with but which the small number of men seemed to stoically avoid. This adherence to a male hetero-normative paradigm is hardly a big issue but it did present a missed opportunity especially in a production that invites us to ‘come to the dark side … we have cookies’.

‘Glow Dance’ presented a beautifully costumed bride and bridesmaid whose magical dancing and clever disrobing left them seemingly wearing only luminescent paint and, while being quite the highlight of the evening, it was a also a charming reminder that sensuality exists firmly between our ears! Bride and bridesmaid – or was it bride and bride, there was no hubby in evidence – left the stage littered with an evocative array of post-nuptial bridal detritus and there was no doubt that these two fine young performers knew exactly what they had achieved.

The three final items ripped by with excellent pace and pizzazz.

‘Dark Fire’ saw a bat-clad, male creature surrounded by four gauze-winged beauties in an under-stated sensual piece which segued neatly into a ‘Voodoo’, a zombie, deep-in-the-bayou parody of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ as might have been choreographed by the body snatchers Burke and Hair.

By this point the Spirit of Nosferatu had overtaken me completely and I neither knew nor cared what might happen next but it turned out to be a totally apt finale.

‘Aim for the Head’ featured the striking women of the company in camouflage gear – aka the Tui Beer girls – brandishing semi-automatic firearms and Glock pistols and taking out a bunch of zombies in a graveyard. Realising that the entire evening had been created without reference to ‘Twilight’ or any such cheap shots is credit to the team who put this piece of pure circus burlesque together and the final image of performers and audience on stage dancing together and breaching that sacred boundary between the two was both wonderful and no surprise.

In the true spirit of ‘Au Bon Mort-Vivant: Dead Sexy Cabaret’ I take my head off to the lot of them!

This review kindly supported by The James Wallace Arts Trust

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