Each of the performers offers unparalleled variance from one act to the next, and all are enjoyable to watch—the talent was high across the board. While the occasional nerves caught up with a few of them, their collective stage presence and performative abilities were encapsulating. I found myself worrying about missing any of the action just to take brief notes!
Our hostess of this month’s Menagerie, Caroline Welkin, brings a cute and inviting energy into the show. With the help of producer Rachel Rouge, Welkin teaches the audience some reactions the audience might have to the acts through placards for applause, murmur, gasp, and “bravo!” The placards provide initial laughs and help to ease the tough crowd into the night. There are some detectable nerves at first, but this does not dissuade Welkin or her audience. She introduces us to the ol’ ‘I say I say I say’ jokes to assist her interludes between performances: even the audience gets an opportunity to submit jokes and win a free drink at the bar. They are fun and humorous in the ‘bad joke’ kind of manner, although she does become reliant on them and this makes the interludes feel repetitive rather than consistent.
The standout of September’s show is Harlow Lestrange with her incredible and captivating hoop routine. Lestrange commands complete attention from every last member of the audience, and she moves with such fluidity and expertise that jaws drop in awe. There is an effective use of lighting here, which refracts off her hoop in an array of reds and greens. The audience responds in thunderous applause to Lestrange’s artistry.
Kiki Kisses’ burlesque enticed the crowd greatly. Within seconds of her routine beginning, we were enamoured by her and her control. She whipped us up into a frenzy, making her audience exude energy to fuel her performance. Her use of red balloons and the child-like voice in the song backing the beginning of her routine provided an innocence that Kisses popped with a single pin: only to reveal an even larger balloon.
Victor Victorious’ spoken word separated itself from the other acts, because it was the only one of its kind and because of its solemn and honest tone. Victorious was flustered when he initially could not remember one of his poems, but recovered very quickly because he had the audience on his side. His charisma shone brightly from the second he opened his mouth, and his poetry resonated with the audience, telling tales of love, desire, and feminism.
The comedy stylings of the acclaimed Josh Davies also warrant mention as a highlight. The comedy act had a clear progression from himself to his family to social life and school, and reflect on his experiences being partially blind. Davies’ jokes were varied; he combines short one-liners with much longer zingers. The journey to Davies’ punchlines are almost as hilarious as the punchlines themselves. His humour constantly hits the mark and never falters, making his act one of the most consistent of the night.
The rest of tonight’s performers were highly creative and enthralling. In no particular order, these included:
Maor Ben-Shahar’s magic show was, as he explained it, an “experiment”, and one that did not disappoint. Ben-Shahar’s humour was well-placed, eliciting some laughs from the audience, warming us up for the follow-up acts; he also adapted very quickly once it was clear tonight’s audience was a bit tougher.
Free and Frank, a comic music group, seemed awkward onstage. The Fringe Bar is not the largest of venues, and Free and Frank looked very cramped. Their songs were entertaining with situational humour (I especially liked “Upper Hutt Girl”), but problems with microphone levels were a hindrance in places.
Bea Lee-Smith delivered some beautiful and theatrical renditions of two musical numbers. As a practiced artist, her performance was professional and a lovely way to ease back into the night’s affair post-interval.
Pande-Monium, our unbelievable closing act, spent several minutes suspended mid-air across her ropes, performing tricks and twirls. Our only response was gasps in awe and amazement. Her performance might have been better placed earlier in the night, but this in no way diminishes her star-power and ability.
The line-up for The Menagerie changes with each passing month (as does the host/hostess), but this by no means should discount the show as an enjoyable night. The diversity is something seldom seen in a single show in Wellington. For their October show, produced by Harlow Lestrange, they have promised a Halloween Special. If the quality of performance for the October show is as constant across their acts as it was this month, it will not be one you want to miss.
You can book tickets at: http://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2016/the-menagerie-october/wellington
8pm, 24 September 2016 @ Fringe Bar