If you’re seeking a hit of spectacular fun with a hint of nostalgia, grab your glamorous coats and head to the Melba Spiegeltent in Collingwood this summer for complete satisfaction. Marking three years since the death of famous rock rebel David Bowie, this circus-style production pays tribute to his music and his lasting mark on presentation, representation and performance.
Choreographed, directed and produced by powerhouse unit Highwire Entertainment as part of the Midsumma Festival, this queer icon is resurrected on the stage in a showcase of stunts and songs that become a hypnotic theatrical experience, amalgamating elements of cabaret, comedy, circus and concert. With a strong band of five including Bowie mimic Stewart Reeve on lead vocals, smash hits are given new life on the stage as the circus performers – often wandering into the spotlight from the band itself – each demonstrate a spectacle of skills, including fire-eating, aerial, and even trapeze… in rollerblades. This segmented production smoothed effortlessly between acts and really allowed the rock anthems to breathe into and out of one another is a flawless soundscape. Each of our multidisciplinarians really had the perfect platform to shimmer and shine, and with Bowie’s strong ethos in reinvention, performance and stagecraft, each performer really invested themselves in those qualities for their something-something spectacular-spectacular.
If one didn’t know Bowie’s discography, they would only leave the show scouring Wikipedia for his top hits and wanting more. The music carried the same quality of Bowie’s, and the synthetic nature of his instrumentation was still upheld with one band member using a soundpad to help land Major Tom back on earth. The band rarely missed a beat, and in the sparse moments where maybe a dissonant chord was strummed or a voice sounded tight, the charm of our performers and their involved, engaged presence only had us smiling with them as they powered on like rock machines.
With dazzling costumes and colourful makeup, our performers look like Bowie’s own entourage, almost as if they could have be his resident band for Melbourne. From sparkling robes to tan bodysuits to metal-padded armour, each costume identified a purpose while pertaining to the esoteric aesthetic that is glam rock. Large hoops, aerial scarves, fire sticks, a large pole, and a microphone stand on the small jutting stage that is the Spiegeltent all made to be a show larger than life and bigger than ever.
With a ring of open windows above allowing the remnants of daylight to haze on in, you would expect the natural lighting to affect the artificial lighting in the space and distract from the effect of it. However, this was not the case; each state still maintained its own glamour and kept the audience in its grasp as it set our stage on rainbow fire. Despite no spotlights, not a face was shadowed and not a colour was too dark or too dissonant in the moment, proving itself effectively designed and demonstrated.
This maintenance also coincides with the theatre technologies and stage management itself, with the bringing on and taking off of circus props via lowering, hooking and manual removal to be efficient and effective in setting up and clearing the stage for the next moment. All in all, the show was in good hands.
For such a musical niche, there is not a single person that is immune to Bowie’s glam rock pizzazz. An hour of engaging performances and Bowie-esque personality, and alive with mesmerising energy and mystery, this show is one even the non-fans will love; and if you praise the Thin White Duke like the true royalty he is, now’s the time to book the whole family tickets and fall in love with him all over again.