27th June – 18th August 2018
Directed by Yaron Lifschitz
Devised and Presented by Circa Contemporary Theatre
Performed at Underbelly Festival’s Spiegeltent
This was, quite simply, phenomenal cabaret circus. I sat transfixed in Underbelly’s Spiegeltent for 60 minutes and forgot the world outside existed, as the six performers – four women and two men – moved fluidly and gracefully through a series of acts encompassing dance, hoops, physical comedy, aerial silks, and superb displays of acrobatics. Unfortunately on the night I was there, the trapeze artist pictured in promotional materials was not performing, but he was barely missed amongst the rest of the extremely talented cast.
According to director Yaron Lifschitz, Peepshow explores the concept of “looking and being seen”; the performers navigate through light and darkness, visual effects and illusions, and the states of observer and observed. Classic cabaret tropes and techniques are twisted and subverted – I was pleasantly surprised to see that two of the acrobatic bases were women, and it was wonderful to see a break from the usual convention that only male acrobats must be strong and muscular while their female counterparts are small, lithe, and sexy. (Side note: one of the performers looked for all the world like a fourth Hemsworth brother and the most attractive, not to mention the most physically talented!) Which is not to say that the women in this show weren’t sexy – at times they were, but they were not confined to this. And although there were some classic displays of performative masculinity, including a gracefully choreographed dance fight, there was also a feeling of gender and sexual fluidity, not to mention homoeroticism. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the objectification of the performers was equal, deliberate, and self-aware, all of which only made it more devastatingly effective. The style flirted with the seediness of a burlesque peepshow, but poked gentle fun at it as well. And the music was phenomenal!
My only criticisms of this production are mild, and are actually focused on some of the more traditional acts in the show: the miming and juggling were not quite as seamless and engrossing as the more innovative acts. In addition, the lack of any stronger through-thread, plot, or theme, meant that in the very few weaker moments, the show lost momentum somewhat. However for the most part, this production was absolutely exquisite and breath-taking. I would highly recommend making your way down to the Southbank in time to see Peepshow before its run there ends in August!