REVIEW: Smoke & Mirrors (Auckland Arts Festival)

Smoke & Mirrors
Smoke & Mirrors, a winning combination.

Camp Circus Freaks [by James Wenley]

Smoke & Mirrors
Smoke & Mirrors, a winning combination.

With this show especially, there is a reason why the performers are on the stage, and we can sit in the audience of the very attractive Spiegeltent. Many of the acts needed strength and ability that only years of training can bring. Nor would most of us, I suspect, be willing to display the performers’ sheer unbridled sexuality in a public setting. The Smoke & Mirrors performers enchant and amaze us, and we’re glad we can watch.

Smoke and mirrors of course, are the age old theatrical tricks used to astound the audience and ‘trick’ them about what they are seeing. The show in fact isn’t really anything new, but contains elements of circus, cabaret and magic. What makes the show special is the presentation – sexy,dark and sophisticated. It’s the naughty cousin of Cirque Du Soliel.

iOTA (points for a most original stage name) is our exuberantly excessive ringmaster, and co-creator of the show with Craig Illot. He has a voice and glasses that reminded me of a darker (and in some ways camper!) version of Elton John. His charisma carries the show, and he is an astoundingly talented performer to watch.

There are many highlights: A trio of muscular men posture, preen and show off their strength. The homoerotism hangs thick in the air. A swish magician performs all kind of amazing ‘how-did-he-do-it’ magic and makes things appear and disappear at a whim. A bearded lady sings a soaring song about wanting to escape and be free. Throughout, the four piece band play music loud and rocking, and iOTA comes on regularly to sing. It’s a brilliant combination.

Oh, there are also bunnies, lots of bunnies that pop up through the show. Why? I don’t know. But they make for an absurd and sometimes threatening presence.

As well as the many great acts, there are themes and preoccupations to do with performance and ‘the show’. iOTA sings about fame and getting people to do anything he wants, but the dream goes bad. He sings of the “show called life” but later realises “the show won’t go on without me”. A Vaudeville tapdance performer enters the stage, clearly from the wrong show, his message ‘laugh it off’ at odds with the darker and more complex messages in the show. His tap starts off bright, but he is corrupted by the world of the Spielgtent, being forced to dance by the demanding drummer.

Smoke & Mirrors is a show of many wicked delights and very, very seductive. Enter the Spiegeltent if you dare.

* NOTE: I unfortunately missed the opening of Smoke and Mirrors because a previous festival show ran later than expected. Never trust those estimated running times!!

Smoke & Mirrors plays as part of the Auckland Arts Festival at the Spiegeltent in Aotea Square until 19th March.

More information at the Auckland Arts Festival website.

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