Let’s get this out of the way upfront: I didn’t live through the 80s. All I know of that era are the stereotypes – huge hair, huge shoulder pads, huge personalities. Exercise videos every morning where the instructors wear spandex and chant STEP STEP STEP at you while tacky music plays. Day-glo pink and yellow everywhere, from the outfits to people’s faces to the very sky for all I know.
Did I mention the shoulder pads? I think I should mention the shoulder pads again. Absolutely enormous shoulder pads.
Putting all of that aside, NEON is an absolutely stunning recreation of every 80s stereotype I’ve ever seen, and it was a spectacle to watch.
Circus Oz really know how to put on a show. For just over 40 years the troupe have been honing their skills both behind the scenes and onstage, and it definitely shows. NEON is part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and for good reason – along with it being a striking display of skill and training by the performers, it has a raunchy sense of humour to titillate the crowd.
NEON is cut into vignettes, some humorous and some extremely touching. Led by MC Geraldine Quinn, the show switches from overtly sexual hip thrusting to comedy magic and back again in record time, and even breaks in the middle to allow Quinn a moment to cover classic 80s tunes in her own gorgeous style. There are a number of tribute songs (to stars who have since passed way) during NEON, including a soulful rendition of a Bowie classic by Quinn, and an aerial silk performance set to Prince’s Purple Rain, where an acrobat defied gravity itself directly above the heads of the audience members.
The costuming for the performance is one of its highlights. Every performer is decked out in brightly coloured – and tight, so very tight – spandex, with carefully placed cut-outs to allow the audience to see exactly how strong they all are. Between every performance vignette there are chances for the performers to switch outfits, including not only their spandex bodysuits but puffy day-glo tracksuits as well.
Another highlight is, of course, the soundtrack. NEON is set to classic 80s tracks, and a number of times the audience gleefully sang, clapped, and stomped along with every song. To the booming beats of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero, two of the performers act out an exercise video before launching into acrobatics that seem literally physics-defying. There’s no way people should be able to flip like that, and yet they both make it seem so easy, all to the beat of the song!
As mentioned, the talent of the performers is beyond impressive. There are a number of high-intensity acts performed – acrobatics, hula hooping, juggling – and each of them are jaw-dropping in their own way. In addition there are slower displays of skill, the most amazing of which is an extremely precise series of poses on raised blocks, where the performer slowly moves from position to position while standing on his hands. The strength required to hold every movement is immense, and left most audience members with their jaws firmly on the floor.
NEON is a delight for every sense. The smell of hairspray permeates the stage, the soundtrack is killer and, most importantly, the eye candy is delicious. Consent is important, of course, but in this case they are literally asking for us to watch them intently, and I’m more than happy to be partake. Given the enthusiasm from the rest of the audience, I’d say they were happy as well.