Second only in size to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Melbourne Fringe Festival is an annual independent arts celebration that runs for three weeks from September to October.

Running in tandem with the Melbourne Festival, the Melbourne Fringe Festival allows more than 300 local and international acts opportunities to showcase everything from dance, acrobatics, drama, comedy, and live music.

Circus arts have a strong tradition in Australia. Troupes such as The Flying Fruit Fly Circus and Circus Oz have long – standing appeal with local and international audiences alike. Further, television hits like Australia’s Got Talent, prove that the art of illusion will continue to fascinate spectators for years to come.

Voila! – Tales Of A Magical Circus is currently playing at the Gasworks Theatre in Albert Park. Assembled by and starring Lee Cohen and Emma Shepherd, their show ambitiously combines both mediums and delightfully lives up to its name from start to finish.

A second – generation magician, Lee Cohen’s life – long love for the art began when she assisted her father’s act from the age of eight.

International opportunities to teach and perform have included stints in South Africa, Hong Kong, Korea and America. Cohen’s other areas of study include music, make – up, art design, acting and television presenting, all of which she has brought in spades to Voila!

Emma Shepherd’s dream to be a circus artist commenced at the age of nine. Starting her career with Brisbane’s Flipside Circus, Shepherd eventually moved to Melbourne to pursue her dream. Then in 2011, she graduated from the National Institute of Circus Arts. She was also selected to perform as part of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Shepherd has incorporated her specialty skills into Voila! They include hula hooping, hoop diving, aerial net and tumbling.

With something of interest for everyone, there is a dynamic sense of girl power on show. Further, Cohen and Shepherd’s combined love for the performing arts drives the simple yet involving autobiographical narrative.

Both are experienced, passionate performers and this enthusiasm shines through. By fusing their skills together as one, Voila is the refreshing result of the partnership.

Forming the quick 60 – minute running time, approximately ten different routines performed alone or as a pair highlight the duo's considerable illusion, acrobatic, and story-telling skills. Full of jam – packed fun and interest, they keep the action going non-stop.

Without spoiling some of the surprises, highlights included a glow in the dark tribute to popular dance styles, Shepherd’s ethereal and haunting aerial ballet, and Cohen apparently deconstructing several popular magic tricks.

Requiring participation from the audience, the final segment got nuttier by the minute. With Shepherd insisting that all magic shows needed a bunny, several attempts by Cohen to produce a rabbit delivered increasingly hilarious results.

Cohen and Shepherd’s alliance extends to a shared quirky and spontaneous comic charm. They have an effortless rapport with the audience and with each other. Together, Cohen and Shepherd have created a magical journey suitable for all ages five and up.

I can't think of a better introduction for parents, relatives and grown-ups alike keen to introduce children to the wonders and excitement of live theatre.


 

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