Friday nights, traditionally reserved for dates, can also serve as excellent evenings to dabble in a bit of late night cabaret with your bestie. Last Friday night I ventured to the Dockland’s latest fanciful erection, the Wonderland Spiegeltent to see, After Hours Cabaret Club perform their collection of vaudeville-esque acts for the vibrant Fringe Festival.

In classic Melbourne style, it had rained a little before we arrived and The Spiegeltent looked spectacular in the moonlight, it’s fairy lights and circus colours glistening and yearning for us to come inside and play. The organisers had intuitively fitted out the Spiegeltent and its close surrounds as if prepared for some sort of weeklong music festival. There was a row of portable toilets, abundant outside tables and heaters, a food truck and a bar. For want of a more interesting way to put it- what more could you want on a Friday night?

Once inside the tent, we were greeted enthusiastically by one of the show’s producers, donning the kind of full length, green sparkly, plunging neckline that would put even Beyoncé’s costume department to shame. Hungry punters scoffed down their food truck wraps as I clutched my whimsical apple cider cocktail, complete with the second fanciful erection for the evening. Atop the cocktail was some sort of strawberry fairy floss tower extravaganza. What a wonderful evening adventure I had embarked on!

Once seated, we began to enjoy the smooth sounds of the After Hours Cabaret Club’s five piece jazz band. Perhaps it’s just because they were in a band or perhaps they really were that handsome, but I found myself being distracted by their boyish good looks at inopportune times throughout the show. Don’t judge my perversity though, just as the MC for the night’s proceedings, Tash York, instructed the crowd “remember, everything goes it’s after hours”. This was the show’s mantra and quickly became mine too on the night.

Everything did indeed, go. From a contortionist, to a burlesque dancer, former Cirque du Soleil artist, standup comedian/juggler, a blow-up T-Rex act and numerous others dazzled the audience for one whole hour. Spirits were high and the audience, jovial. For me, there were a couple of acts that lacked polish and true audience engagement. With this said, amongst the lineup was an absolute standout and that was Bernadette Byrne with her sexually provocative comedic performance. The content of her act was painfully current and judging from the laughs, there were a few of us that related. Bernadette sung a hilarious song about dating an intriguing man via the app/online world. The song escalated quickly from the flirtatious chat to indulging in his sexual, Star Wars inspired proclivities. There was an abundance of jokes in her act for Trek Heads and tech geeks but because of the clever inclusion of enough popular culture references from the general knowledge domain, the jokes worked for everyone. Byrne sauntered around the room, titillating patrons in classic cabaret style. Her comedy was intelligent, polished, and slick and I couldn’t fault it.

Other moments in the evening that were a feast for the eye included former Cirque du Soleil performer, Reuben DotDotDot and the opening burlesque dancer, Kelly Ann Doll who chose to dance to the seminal rap tune from Salt-N-Pepa, Pump Up the Jam. Who knew Melbourne’s theatre scene was full of so many fellow nineties RnB fans? While the show was far from the polish and formidable execution of say, Yana Alana or the last Circus Oz performance I saw, it was an enjoyable evening with a great introduction to a talent I hadn’t seen before, in Bernadette Byrne.

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