Absinthe – Is the hype real?
The outrageously over-the-top Absinthe has finally arrived in Sydney after achieving acclaim in Las Vegas and recently touring Newcastle, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Absinthe will play under its ambient ‘spiegeltent’ in Hyde Park until October 25.
Spiegelworld describes Absinthe as “an adult-themed cocktail of circus, comedy, burlesque and vaudeville … inspired by the absinthe-drenched cabarets of late 19th century Europe.”
It is difficult to pigeon-hole the show – which in part is the reason for its success. Absinthe combines elements of acrobatics, traditional circus arts, racy burlesque and strip, side show acts and song into 90 minutes hosted by the vulgar and foul-mouthed comedy of ‘The Gazillionaire’ and Abbey. Your hosts set the tone from the start warning that if anyone is easily offended by language or crass humour – then this is probably not the show for you. The is a reason the show is rated for over 15 years, and I would suggest that even this is a bit young for some of the content. You have been warned!
Absinthe opens with Australian-singer Karla Tonkich incarnated as the Green Fairy. She sings while performing a burlesque strip that certainly introduces the audience to the style of the show to come. To her credit, Karla has a great vocal and gives a classy performance. Karla returns later to perform a fun circus trick with an over-sized balloon that combines tap dance and visual comedy – seriously.
Underneath the veil of saucy naughtiness, Absinthe is mostly about the gymnastic and acrobatic tricks of traditional circus arts – and they are really quite impressive! Ukranian Sacha Volohdin performs an old-style chair stacking routine up to the roof top; another four Ukranian strongmen perform ‘Banquine’ displaying incredible strength, tossing and precision; and a duo from Belarus wow with a horizontal bar routine in a confined space.
Absinthe breaks up the muscle of the night with a sweet, beautiful aerial ballet of spinning and floating on the duo straps by Jacob Oberman and Maika Isogawa, from USA; Karla’s balloon strip; and a provocatively cleaver aerial hoop act by Germans Laura von Bongard and Luka Clayburn.
Absinthe is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, which is highlighted by ‘Duo Adagio’, a satirical act of modern dance by ‘Ivan’ and ‘Ivana’ (who look suspiciously like your potty-mouthed hosts!). It is nonetheless hilarious.
The two stand out acts cap-off the night. A genuinely amazing hand counter-balancing act by Michal Nowosadko and Zbigniew Sobierajski, from Poland. They are strength and artistry in one. Finally, the high wire trio of Paul Lopez, Paul Resell and Oleksiy Snarskyy take the circus ring stage demonstrating some traditional tightrope walking and balancing mixed up with slap stick comedy.
There are plenty of ‘oohh and aahh’ moments in Absinthe and the intimate tent setting really dramatises the whole experience for the audience. You are close to the action and there are no safety nets. However, if you sit ringside be prepared to be singled-out and heckled in the name of comedy. There is also the chance of volunteering for a lap dance competition – if that’s your thing!
Absinthe is unique and offers something different. It feels as if you are being entertained in a royal court of yesteryear where theatre, cabaret and physical feats were celebrated. There are some jaw-dropping moments and every audience member is catered for … except perhaps the religiously devout and your grandparents!
Which brings us to the narrative of the hosts. Absinthe makes no apologies for what it often is – crude, offensive, and sexually explicit. At first, this in-your-face-up-front attitude creates excitement and shocks the audience into attention. This is clearly not going to be Cirque de Soleil! However, after a while this humour wears thin and frankly, isn’t all that funny. They do well to ad-lib and improvise in between acts but it ends up relying on swearing most of the time.
Apparently, the show had to water-down some of the humour for local audiences due to Australian tastes being too politically correct. I can only imagine what it must have been like beforehand! There are no filters here: sex and sexism, racism, rough language and audience belittlement are in full flight here from The Gazillionaire and Abbey as padding while the next act is set up.
Overall, Absinthe probably does deliver on the hype surrounding it – it’s a good show. But it could have benefited from writers of the same caliber as the performers. It’s adult-rated fun with some seriously good entertainment and thrills on show. It’s an action-packed 90 minutes that will not disappoint. However, don’t take it too seriously and don’t take your grandma!
For more information visit www.absintheaustralia.com
Spiegeltent, Hyde Park, Sydney
Until October 25
Tuesday & Wednesday 8pm
Thursday – Saturday 7.30pm & 9.30pm
Sunday 5pm & 7pm
Tickets from $55, Group discounts available for 6 or more
Bookings at www.ticketek.com.au
NOTE: ABSINTHE is recommended for ages 15 and above. The performance features some nudity and strong language.