Empire returns to Melbourne

ANOTHER circus show in a Speigeltent… Surely we’ve seen it all? Hell, no! Empire captures everything that makes the intimacy of these mirrored tents so special and combines it with acts so originally dazzling, jaw-dropping dangerous and blush-inducing hilarious that it re-ignights the most jaded love for circus and burlesque.

Empire, Speigleworld. Oscar

Empire originated in New York and remains a love song to the city. It’s been touring Australia for over a year and is back in Melbourne for a second run. It’s slick and rehearsed to a milli-second, but still feels as fresh and exciting as an opening week.

How it really stands out from similar shows is that each act is choreographed and created for its three-metre diameter circular stage. The stage is teeny, but that’s merely a challenge for the likes of roller skaters Denis Petaov and Mariia Beseimbetova, who are so swear-out-loud fast and dangerous that the front rows prepare to flee the impending crash – that never happens.

From host’s Oscar and Fanny (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann) V I Penis to Memet Bilgin’s room-silencing driftwood balance, the mix of music, spectacle, sex and how-is-that-even-possible athleticism never allows for a moment of distraction. Throw in a drink and rooftop views over the city and Empire is as shiny and brilliant as a night out can be.

My only disappointment is the forced extended exit through the casino (complete with ‘free’ $10 to bet with). The only way to avoid it is to be under 18. Choice is a fine thing and there’s no secret that the Crown is a casino, but to go from genuine joy and sparkle to false hope and glaring fluorescence isn’t a choice I’d make.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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