I’m the kind of adult that still doesn’t get a whole lot of sleep on Christmas Eve so for me, going to The Spiegeltent is an enchanting, magical experience. The lights and wonder of it all takes me back to my childhood. Let me be clear that this nostalgia isn’t of the sophisticated variety. Rather, I’m just a real sucker for bright lights and flashy costumes. With this in mind, I’m the perfect candidate for Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box (on until the 13th of September). In fact, I think you could safely say as I took my seat, Cuban-esque alcoholic punch in hand, I was considerably chuffed with myself for being at the show and secretly hoped to see some outrageousness (I had brought both of my parents along).
Melbourne’s glitterati were certainly present, along with a strong presence from the LGBTIQ ‘who’s who’. As I finished my punch and sent Dad back for another round, through the labyrinth that were the aisles, I pondered the last time I had visited the wonderful Spiegeltent. It was for a play reading a few years prior when the tent was next to the National Gallery. Temporarily presiding alongside Circus Oz in Collingwood, The Spiegeltent’s proximity to some great bars and more importantly, Jim’s Greek Tavern, made the evening even more palatable to a bunch of North-siders.
It’s difficult to be critical about Glory Box because the acts I didn’t enjoy probably just came down to taste. With that said, there were a couple here and there that I thought the show could have done without. This is simply because they were pale in comparison to the wonder and spectacle of others. For me, it was the lower concept acts such as a lip-syncing of the song Crush by Garbage that the line-up could have done without. There were also a couple of purely conceptual acts that missed the mark for me as an audience member because I felt they lacked an engaging ‘narrative’.
By far the most enjoyable act for me was Ethiopian Hoop-La! performed by the exquisite Yeshewambtat Maharete. I was absolutely mesmerised by her talents and (just like a bowerbird) the sparkly costume facilitated this fascination. She moved seamlessly across the stage and the performance (fit with around 20 gold hoops) encapsulated the essence of what defines a strong live act for me- connection. Yeshewambtat was relaxed and in the moment and by virtue of the difficulty of what she was doing to the average person, she had the audience in the palm of her hand.
There were three other acts that were particularly memorable for my parents and I. There was a dance duo that appeared a few times on stage throughout the night. One of their acts included a bizarre routine to the song I think u freeky by Die Antwoord. It was this performance that signalled a dramatic and explosive light spectacle that showcased the preparation and technical sophistication of Glory Box. When I close my eyes to reminisce on this particular act, all I can see in my head are flashes of green and two beautiful dances that made me feel like I was at a rave party for the first time in my life.
Last but not least, Molly the Bashful employed some truly excellent comic timing in her cheeky act that was an audience favourite. The closing number (just before the glorious Cat Stevens Peace Train dance-off) was also excellent and wacky in all the right ways, an act entitled, Her Majesty the Dairy Queen. I won’t spoil it for you but let’s just say, don’t wear your most impressive couture if you plan on sitting in the front row.
Glory Box was a visceral experience. It was bold, outrageous, colourful and spirited. I was so happy to be a part of the audience on the night of their fundraiser as well that is helping to get the show to Cuba. Despite little isolated moments here and there where I didn’t connect with the material, it was a wonderful evening out in Melbourne. There was a real sense of celebration in the room that was wholly refreshing. In the words of Dale Kerrigan from The Castle, what made the night (in addition to all of the glorious performances) was ‘just the vibe’.