***** STARS

By Jessica Taurins

Known primarily for their sillier shows, Dummies Corp. have finally put together an adult circus offering for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and for their first go-around, they have produced an exceptional performance. The Dumtectives in Cirque Noir opens with a dark and sultry atmosphere, filling The Famous Spiegeltent with smoke, smooth jazz, and high expectations of what’s to come. There is even an aptly titled original composition, I Got Away With It,  by Mal Webb (most well known for composing the soundtrack for Lano and Woodley) and performed by Aurora Kurth.

The premise is simple – there is a murder, a mystery, a singing seductress, and the Dumtectives (performers Amy Nightingale-Olsen, Thomas McDonald, and Leigh Rhodes) are on the case. The combination of adult humour and circus performance is not new, but this troupe really took it to new heights during the performance, working in dance, burlesque, and incredible crude humour, alongside traditional circus acts.

In addition, while there’s very little dialogue, there are so many opportunities for each character to express their enormous personalities, whether through their hilariously melodramatic performances, or in tandem with their circus acts. Throughout the show there are so many opportunities – usually during some kind of dance sequence – for the characters to shine, and it’s so much fun seeing them develop over the hour-long performance.

Regarding the circus acts, Cirque Noir is an amazing opportunity for each performer to show off their strengths (and sometimes their actual strength, too!). McDonald is most frequently the bottom of any strength structure, carrying the weight of the other performers on his shoulders. At the top of the show, McDonald also performed on the ‘corde lisse’, or hanging rope, presenting his impressive strength while deftly twisting (completely unprotected from a fall) on the high rope.

Rhodes has previously called himself a character performer, and took every opportunity during Cirque Noir to show that off. In addition to spinning in the Cyr wheel (a big metal hula hoop), and juggling basically everything he could – which was impressive enough – Rhodes’ acting took every scene to a new height, particularly during one of the moments in the middle which really secured Cirque Noir’s MA15+ rating.

Nightingale-Olsen, in comparison to the large, extremely muscular men, is a very tiny lady, well-suiting her to be tossed about by the other performers. Her highlights are truly her incredible acting, coming across as the toughest and strongest in the trio despite her size, and her talent at antipodism, or foot juggling. There’s a fantastic sequence in the middle of the show where Nightingale-Olsen is at her best, and was a delight to watch.

In all circus performances, it’s likely that there will be a dropped ball or a failed act. The three Dumtectives, partly because of the comedic attitude of the show, and partly due to their professionalism, are not immune to this, but recover so easily it’s as though the mistake never happened. They are also so in tune with each other, communicating so smoothly throughout the performance that each jump or twist seems to just happen with no prior conversation.

While the human performers were the stars of the show, the puppeteering segment should also be mentioned, as it was a joy to experience. The smooth movements of the marionette, by David Splatt, were so humanlike that it was easy to forget she was only a tiny skeleton, and not a full sized performer being viewed from a distance.

There were too many highlights to note from this show, and some surprises must be saved for the viewing. The Dumtectives in Cirque Noir are well worth catching during MICF 2021, and Dummies Corp. are a troupe to watch out for!