Laissez le bon temps rouler! – Let the good times roll!

And roll they will with the opening of AfterDark Theatre’s latest adult’s only offering, Society. Direct from the heady and mysterious French Quarter of New Orleans, Society is  a high octane blend of amazing acrobatics, visceral sound and magnetic lighting where nothing is off limits in this Circus Cabaret.

 The creative behind Society, Francesco Minniti, describes the  adult’s only Circus Cabaret as a little cheeky, and far removed from the big tops, clowns and animals of traditional circus.

“The show is designed to appeal to grown-ups; it’s a little darker and sexy,” says Minniti.” We can play with more adult themes and not be restricted by having to be family friendly. This does allow us to tastefully play with sexuality; not having to be conservative about it. Also being able to create acts that are more high risk and dangerous. Adults Only Circus is also very glamourous, bright and glittery, but it can have some darker undertones and has far more attitude than a traditional circus.”

The team’s goal is to bring adult audiences back to the circus. “Traditional circus has the stigma attached to it as being a little corny and dated because of its family friendliness. This is by no means our opinion about it; however we want to show the mature age and young adult audience what circus can look like without restrictions.”

Swinburne Uni graduate and Green Room Award winner, Minniti, says the arts began calling him as a teenager when his drama teacher challenged him to do something with his life rather than being another outer suburb at-risk youth. However, the circus calling came later at university when he began to study physical theatre at Swinburne for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

“I was instantly drawn to how human beings could achieve such acrobatic feats,” he says. “My head lecturer Dr. John Butler suggested I should train in circus; a foreign concept to me, because like any young man in the arts… I wanted to be an actor. So, I tried the training and loved it! I also began to understand the different forms of skills, how it all worked, what the creative process was and I found myself being consumed by this art-form.”

Minniti also fell in love with how to design a production, and how to produce. He explains: “My technical coordinator and teacher George Kulikovskis enlightened me to the fine tuning of a production via the technical fields and lead me down a path of specialisation of production for Circus and Physical Theatre.

Society Landscape 3

Another major inspiration was my acting teacher John Preston, who taught me the fine art of directing large ensembles.”

Minniti created AfterDark Theatre in 2007, initially as a black light theatre company. Their first production was Runtime Error; an inter-art circus piece blending black light puppetry, theatre, and circus. Since then, the company has moved on to producing and designing a number of shows such as Limbo- requiem, They Say She’s Different, Another Point of View, BARBAROI, The Element of Consequence and The Last King of Vaudeville.

“AfterDark Theatre has always had a goal of making the fringe arts more accessible to the general public,” says Minniti. “We achieve this by blending traditional art forms like Theatre, Music, and Dance with Circus, Cabaret, and Sideshow. We’ve found this is a great way to slowly introduce new audiences to our art form of Physical Theatre and Cabaret, without alienating them. What we strive to achieve with AfterDark Theatre productions is to make them different from a traditional circus. With most productions, we usually add a narrative and story structure, or a theme that draws the acts together rather than just an eclectic mix of random artists with random skills.”

There are obviously many safety concerns when dealing with a work of this nature. Minniti talks through the process behind this work and the mindset of AfterDark when it comes to safety:

“Whenever we develop a new work, we plan out the skillsets first. It’s because of safety that this is our first layer in the creative process. We have to figure out the skills, then the artists who can fill them. Then we have to figure out if she/he will be fatigued coming from skillset A to B, if they need a rest between, or if it’s too physically demanding for that artist to achieve those skill sets in a single show.

This seems like a strange way to plan out a production, however we’re dealing with artists that need millimetre dexterity to achieve a desired skill or trick. We need to plan if the area is clear in the event they fail a skillset, what the risks or dangers are, how we can recover from it and/or if it is a hazard or show stop.”

It is clear Minniti is driven by pure passion and creative discovery. His, and the company’s,  relationship with the audience is imperative as is  the impetus to serve the work in all its forms. This work is no different and inspires him as a creative on all levels:

“In a production of a Circus Cabaret the theme or setting is essentially the driving force behind its narrative, or creative development. This being an Adults Only Circus Cabaret based in the illustrious French Quarter of New Orleans, we want to take the audience on a journey of a wild night on Bourbon Street. Through its festoon lit laneways and into its dark underbelly of secret societies, voodoo culture and Cajun influence.

The show aims to showcase some of the ethos of New Orleans and we want to build the relationship of us as the performers being an eccentric and heightened tour-guide through the things that make New Orleans the amazing and heterogeneous city that it is.”

Society Landscape 1

Minniti’s enthusiastic excitement of and for the work is evident when asked to talk about what his favourite thing has been about working on this project:

“The research! The city of New Orleans is so captivating. Having spent time there myself, I was instantly drawn into the city, its drama, its pulse. I also began heavily reading into how Mardi Gras began and how the very first parades commenced in New Orleans.

The fact that ‘Secret Societies’ hosted these parades in their quarter and no one knew who the party host was was a fascinating bit of research in itself. I immediately thought to myself, “How can we tell a story about this?” I then continued my investigations to find out that there was a secret society for virtually everything in this amazing city. Once I had the building blocks of research in repertoire, the creation of the show began which, I dare say, was a close second to research as my favourite thing about working on the project.”

Society comes to The Melba Spiegeltent in May and promises to take your breath Away!

Says Minniti:

“It’s a wild journey infusing Circus, Magic, Dance and Theatre to showcase an ever-changing and amazing city.

It’s cheeky, fun, sexy and you will be on the edge of your seat seeing some of the world’s best circus artists performing for you in such an intimate venue. This will truly be a once in a lifetime experience.”

May 10 – 26