Invictus is a confidently deceased character, happy where she is and cavalierly swans about the stage, speculating about the grandeur of being dead. For her, death entails the copious consumption of alcohol and firm knowledge that this is really all that there is, the baggage claim at the end of the rainbow. It is grim, in a fun way, but, unfortunately, didn’t warm the crowd up very much, we had no initial interaction or warm-up exercises and this hindered the next performer.
Bring on the first act: Blue Virtue! He creeps onto the stage swathed in satins and feathers and sequins, his body draped like a wraith’s. An eerie, breathy nursery rhyme accompanies his slow steps onto the stage. This gives way to a thumping bass-line where we are treated to a more morbid, less elaborate modern version of the 7 veils dance, constantly playing with the tension between tease and reveal.
Valentino comes on stage again (after some clean-up from NoGo Joe) and introduces her co-host, Cynthia Highway, a ball of energy in a pink pinafore (or whatever). Cynthia starts a story that begins as upbeat, but perhaps the old pirate adage is true, dead men should tell no tales. Her bright and sunny demeanour and mannerisms are that of a fidgety 10-year-old. She carries with her a building cyclonic whirlwind of activity which starts as a metaphysical presence but then lashes out into our corporeal realm. What starts as a small dust devil explodes into a gale-force, ripping-trees-out-of-the-ground hurricane. But the eye of the storm comes and she is calm again, bringing with it a dark backstory that made a murmuring of hushed horror shiver through the room.
The relationship between herself and Invictus who appears in and out of Cynthia’s stories, runs in between the other acts as the continuous narrative of the show. However, I felt like I had dived in somewhere midway through the story, book 2 of the series, and had missed the exposition part that explains it all.
The next act is The Dulcet Duo; an accordionist and storyteller. The Dulcet Duo weave a tale of societal morals as they interweave spoken word and accordion. The music was all of a macabre-circus style, slow low chords followed by quick higher ones. Cordelia Ann Black speaks with passion and a conviction with a lot of direct eye contact with the audience and even a mimed kick to my face to illustrate one particular point. This did not stop even amongst costume changes. There is a Viva la revoluciόn feel about it that buoys the energy of the room as Black’s voice gets louder and her gesticulations wilder.
The next two acts are Tess Testorone and Victor Victorious with Sophia O’Connor. Tess Tosterone performs a haunting lip-sync that deals heavily in emotionality, using their facial expressions to convey the heartfelt message of melancholy and sadness in the song. Their blue hair and soft, floating arm movements creates a nice, quietbeat in between the more manic acts.
Victor Victorious and Sophia O’Connor perform a highly amusing co-operative gymnastic act that was half dire Shakespeare (courtesy of Victorious) juxtaposed with O’Connor’s “Choose Life” speech from Trainspotting. Their warring ideologies made for great entertainment and their feats of agility, flexibility and strength were a pleasure to watch. The clambering of O’Connor over Victorious one always trying to dominate the other really lends credence to their logger-headed dialogues. When they balance a pose, such as Victorious lifting O’connor upon his shoulders while she casually arches above him made the opposites attract quality of their speeches especially fun.
After a brief respite consisting of a penguin-death metaphor from NoGo Joe (to elaborate further would ruin the fun), Harlowe Lestrange arrives in Limbo. Harlowe’s burlesque dance is sensual to begin with, before whip-cracking into being a primal representation of basest desires. I loved the change and the undead-quality Lestrange imbued the dance with, something the programme describes as Zomburlesque and in costume and manner, this is an act that ought to be seen to be truly appreciated.
The show ended a little strangely with our co-hosts Valentino Invictus and Cynthia Highway continuing their narrative about their respective stays in Limbo. Their conversation then turns into a verbal altercation, the resolution of which ended rather abruptly with Valentino’s final monologue brimming with a veneer-cracking vulnerability and the curtain fell. I, and the rest of the audience, was confused by it, thinking maybe it was a break, and so the applause was a lacklustre apparition of what the show deserved.
The Limbo Cabaret may have some kinks, but the kinky throughout more than makes up for it. It plays at Fringe bar and runs from Wednesday 15th – Saturday 18th of February. Tickets are available at www.fringe.co.nz