A great sense of fun, good humour and liberal dollops of audience interaction are the constants in Paris Underground, a subversion of classic French cabaret and variety that is more than a little cheeky. Seven performers take to the stage for a couple of hours singing, dancing, tapping, contorting, climbing, telling stories and performing magic tricks. But few, if any, of the acts are straight. There is almost inevitably a twist and more than a touch of burlesque. At times that involves disrobing and in other instances colourful and ornate costuming.
Julia Madotti is one of Australia’s few female magicians and illusionists. Hannah Trott is a circus artiste and aerialist. Eden Read is a tap dancer extraordinaire and is forever sweeping the stage (literally, with a broom that is), clearing it of the build up of confetti and glitter. Aurora Kurth is hilarious as a chanteuse with a wickedly engaging mouth. She has no hesitation in walking off stage and getting in and amongst the audience, giving us heaps. Wonderful entertainment. Showgirl Zelia Rose smoulders as a dynamic dancer, taut and terrific, all feathers and sexy lingerie. Muscular Tim Rutty displays enormous strength and dexterity and wows us with his rope climbing skills. The emcee, storyteller and illusionist, complete with adorable fake French accent, is Richard Vegas.
The timing between acts is, on occasions, a problem, but my biggest concern was the altogether over-the-top use of an infernal fog machine. I can only presume that those behind the show felt it created an appropriate “underground” atmosphere. No, merely a great sense of frustration on our part! Clearly, they had never heard the adage less is more. And by the time the performance ended, I felt that overall the cabaret had begun to wear out its welcome. For the last 10 minutes or so, the emcee constantly said that was it, there was no more, but this was one heck of a long farewell.
So, while there is much to applaud and plenty to appreciate and savour in Paris Underground – in particular the comedic elements and the diversity of skills on display – it would benefit from being tightened. It is playing at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 24th September.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television