Reviewed Saturday 22 May by Kati Murphy
Upstairs at the Sideshow was sultry for this time of year, as the near dark room was bathed in a scarlet hue from the stage lighting. The speakers were emanating warmth as was the friendly little bar tucked away in the corner. As I found a seat, I could hear backstage machinations, and I caught an exciting glimpse of some neon lights through the curtain. People were in small clusters all around me chatting, drinking, and having a laugh.
A quick preshow announcement urged the audience to strap in for the Velvet Lounge Spectacle before Abbie Allora emerged gracefully in her gown to get the ball rolling; her um… dressing gown that is. One might say, it was obvious lockdown has been hard on Abby, and she was the first to confess she’s been watching way too much bad TV. In fact, with a little bit of static electricity and a simple TV antenna she became one with the TV before our very eyes.
I knew something magical was happening after holding the antenna next to different parts of her body elicited a change in the TV output, ranging from the news through to cartoons and even reality. By the end of this little experiment, the antenna had attached itself onto her head forcing her to fall onto a couch facing the stage, and the audience to crash-land in some sort of televised talent show. I could hear the audience laughing as she slipped backstage discreetly in the dark.
From this point on Allora is represented permanently on the couch, by a crash helmet with the TV antenna attached to it. The performances that followed, including her own, were therefore metaphorically, not only a glimpse seen through her eyes, but one can only assume the TV content we glimpsed through her eyes was also generated by her mind (via the antenna). It’s bizarre, but I find it intriguing to think about such a mind-blowing creative loop, shattering so many theatrical rules and numbered walls. Forgetting this complexity though, the simpler premise of a live talent show was a great vehicle for presenting an eclectic array of artists and their skills which included music, dance, theatre, and circus.
B-Syde opened the talent quest with a simple beat, looping his own high vocal notes into a haunting ambience that was a good base ingredient for the rest of his sound, which included deep almost monk like reverberations, and rap or spoken word.
Chelsea came next and showed incredible versatility throughout the night, giving us two powerhouse vocal numbers from Whitney and Christina in her turn as a popular talent show contestant, before adding some spin to the evening as one half of a hooping and dance duo with Allora.
ClockworkManda lit up the stage in more ways than one, and speaking of dance numbers, she choreographed the group dances and performed in a few of the wackier offerings. Her work was particularly warm and fuzzy, especially the piece with the crazy sound effects coming out of the big yellow ghetto blaster. I also loved her robot ballerina.
Reece Dunn was mesmerising to watch, whether manipulating a crystal ball or maneuvering in a head-to-toe reflective costume as the Mirror Man. With coloured lights beaming from his every facet, the latter seemed like an ancient and fractured ringmaster, and this is all before he came to life.
When the state of lighting hit red however, the sound turned sinful bluesy jazz, as a sensual nymph entered the room and sauntered towards the air, effortlessly climbing a length of red silk hanging in front of the stage. She maneuverered into shapes as the music stirred her soul and dictated to her body.
If I thought the room was warm at this point, it got infinitely hotter with Allora’s fiery finale in a personal homage to all things Mortal Kombat. And in no time, the very final character stepped up to close the show by transporting the audience to another place entirely. Somewhere darker with fleuro lights buzzing, where a couple in pyjamas are at the mercy of some sort of mad scientist, wonderfully characterised by maniacal laughter and a giant monocle. I can’t say much more about this scene without giving away some of the best the parts of the whole show, however I must say their costumes and props were clearly a hit with the audience. In fact, this is a good note for the whole show. Ultimately it went off like an eighties rocket… or maybe even a drawing by Mr. Squiggle. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad I witnessed the spectacle.