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The Velvet Lounge Spectacle

Theming a variety show around the dream-like unravelling of TV programs is a great idea. It’s good to see a format that allows for a variety of local artists to present new ‘acts,’ so it will be interesting to see how The Velvet Lounge Spectacle develops after this Anywhere Festival premiere.

Variety shows have followed a relatively similar format over the last 100+ years. A compere/MC provides a short introduction to a variety of individual acts that might include anything from comedy to magic, dance to illusion, and even musical theatre and ventriloquism. Dating back to Victorian music halls, variety shows were a 1940s-80s TV staple. Promoted as an opportunity to ‘join us upon the velvet lounge, watching as the seemly normal TV shows unravel,’ The Velvet Lounge Spectacle is a great idea, creating a ‘wrapper’ for local performers to present a signature act (or try something new).

The Velvet Lounge Spectacle appears to have been part of the regular program for The Sideshow for a number of months, giving local (and occasionally interstate) artists a chance to perform in an intimate venue. The show premiered as part of the May 2021 Anywhere Festival, thanks to producer, compere, and fire-twirler, Abbii Allora (and friends). 

Brisbane is home to a number of talented performers, as the 23rd May show included some great fire-eating/dancing, Abby’s fabulous aerial work, and the hooping and dancing skills of  ClockworkManda (and Yaolina Kay, I assume, as FrOotY HoOPs?)—as well as the organic electronic musical performance by B-Syde, and Reece Dunn’s mirror man and Dr Boom (plus the support of Just Jeremy and Miss Chelsea). Personal highlights were the extensive use of LED technology during the hooping and dancing, creating quite spectacular and crowd-pleasing effects, and I loved the fire-eating, aerial, and ‘Jane Fonda’ hooping workout. For me, the best ‘tv-unravelled’ moments were ‘The Voice’ (great rendition of ‘I will always love you’), the glass ball work by the ‘newsreader,’ and the trio performing the ‘nature/David Attenborough’ dance piece.

The great thing about variety acts is that if one performer doesn’t quite hit the mark, then the compere can keep the show moving along. For any future development of The Velvet Lounge Spectacular, I’d suggest a number of changes to attract audiences that are not mainly friends and family (particularly if the $40+ ticket price is maintained). Suggestions include separating out the hosting and performing roles (perhaps an improv comic for the hosting role?), considering having the velvet lounge on the side of the stage (in front of the curtain stage left, perhaps, where everyone can see it), keeping the compere chats to a minimum (perhaps having a brief words about each type of tv show before each act, rather than en bloc at the beginning?), having a much shorter interval, and ending with one of the ‘top’ acts (fire-eating/dancing?). 

Verdict: Good to see a contemporary variety show, but tweaks definitely needed.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Sunday 23rd May 2021 performance. Pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Audience information: World Premiere season at The Sideshow, 22-23 May 2021 (7pm). 90-ish minutes. 18+. Tickets $42.50.