Adelaide Fringe 2014
Papillon is a nostalgic celebration of physical skill and youthful talent, splashed across the Gluttony Peacock. Performers jump and climb, dance and sing their way through an hour of classic entertainment with a current day edge.
The Peacock is a brilliant space for circus – amidst the sawdust and farmyard feel of the Gluttony compound where ‘vagabond’ performers busk and conjure balloon animals from within magical coats and people sit in clusters around tables sharing beer and conversation.
There is the air of the big top from bygone days hanging about the place as we find our seats in the massive 250 seat space. And these players make much of our nostalgia, costumes and acts all reveling in the past, though this is definitely circus for today’s generation. We are welcomed to the show by emcee Idris Stanton who, done up in his ringleader coat and skinny jeans is flamboyant and fabulously fun. We are informed that Papillon means butterfly and that we are all meant to be transformed by the end of tonight’s performance.
There are a plethora of acts from balancing lion tamers and acrobatic femme fatales to plate spinners and jazzy lounge singers. One thing all the acts have in common is their early twentieth century meets rockabilly edge aesthetic. This show thrives on its own anachronism, the common thread of the grand old vaudeville traditions weaving through all of the modern references (Khia makes an appearance) to give the show a consistent feel. But it is enough?
Physical theatre, circus and burlesque are all quite big at the minute, and there are bushels of shows offering the corset bedecked depression-era aesthetic to eager fans of “new age fun with a vintage feel!” (thank you, The Grand Spectacular)… So what sets a show apart from the masses? In the absence of true innovation (this show is a catalogue of old standards where attempts at innovation would likely feel out of place) the performances want the connective tissue of a conceit of some sort – story is probably too strong of a word, but certainly some sort of arc for us to follow; a journey to go on with our new friends.
Papillon offers incredible feats of strength and cunning, tongue in cheek chuckles, and some truly daring moments, and taken on their own, all of the acts are impressive, but there is a disparate quality to the segments, a scattered feeling to the show as a whole. Amazing spectacle presented with an infectious sense of joyful delight and encompassing acrobatics, clown, and the whole spectrum of circus arts, Papillon may not be transformational, but it is a good time.