This week I stepped through the almost century-old doorway of The Famous Spiegeltent to see a show called The Trip. And what a trip it was. To call this show "dreamlike" in one sense conjures up just the right atmosphere of magic and unreality, a kind of Wonderland-esque nothing-is-what-it-seems counter-reality that throws you pleasurably off-balance.
But The Trip was a lot more earthy than any dream I can remember. One moment you're gasping at fluid and seemingly effortless contortionist feats and aerial acrobatic wonders. The next, a sweet little drag queen called Baby Jane has stripped down to a faux-naked bodysuit and is sending bubble farts out through a hole in her suit-bottom.
Now imagine all of that in a tent that is so small you can see every muscle-tremble, every gleam of sweat, every cheeky wink in a performer's eye. When world-acclaimed theatrical gymnasts The Caesar Twins perform a stunning routine from inside a fishbowl, you are close enough to get splashed at the end.
Imagine you are seated in a carved wooden booth that is smooth from almost 100 years of patrons just like you. You relax beneath delicate, stained-glass windows in art deco patterns that gleam in the circus-lights like oversized jewels, and sip champagne. This is the same venue in which Marlene Dietrich entertained fans in the 1930s.
I wasn't allowed to use a flash, and arrived at the last minute (thanks, Madeleine) so I didn't have a great vantage point for the camera. Still, looking over these photos now I kind of love them. I love the blur of movement in the acrobats, the strange quality given to them by the circus lights, the glimpses of canvas and stained glass and other members of the audience, all of which help recreate the dreamlike world of The Trip. Yes, I'm back to "dreamlike" again. I guess it really is the best way to describe this show.
Honestly though, I highly recommend you go see it for yourself.
The Trip runs until 3 March and the full Spiegeltent program in Melbourne runs until 21 April. Download the program here (isn't it pretty?) or keep track via Spiegeltent's Melbourne season on Facebook.
ps. I was not paid to write this post, however, I did receive two tickets to the show courtesy of the generous folks at Arts Centre Melbourne. Thank you!
ps2. We will resume our regular programming of The Storytellers next week