★★★ Review: Briefs Close Encounters
Briefs: Close Encounters
Underbelly Festival Southbank
14 July – 30 September | Times Vary | From £25
It’s always good to have the Briefs boys back in London – but the signs are that the law of diminishing returns may be setting in…
Briefs shows have become a staple at the Southbank’s Underbelly Festival, as well as taking Edinburgh by storm. The very first Briefs show was a cheeky, fun-filled romp, nimbly establishing its own niche whilst clearly taking inspiration from the likes of La Soiree and Company 2.
Now in its third iteration, however, one can’t help but feel that the team are all starting to take things a little too seriously. Close Encounters is well performed, and the cast of jugglers, aerialists, clowns, tumblers and lip-sync queens clearly have talent to burn – but while there are flashes of irreverence and occasional outbreaks of unconfined silliness, the tone just all seems a little too one-note. They’ve explicitly stated that audiences should “think less party-trashy and much more warped” – unfortunately, it tips over a little towards feeling over-choreographed.
Fez Faanana leads a cosmic crew including Las Vegas award-winning Captain Kidd, Harry Clayton-Wright, Thomas Gundry Greenfield, Thomas Worrell, Dale Woodbridge Brown and Louis Biggs. Skilful though they may be, the Briefs bunch are not always the very best in their field – other shows will see more dangerous tricks, more daring apparatus and more challenging routines. None of that has mattered before, because the sheer exuberance and frivolity of it all has made the Briefs experience so enjoyable. Losing some of that sense of wanton fun, however, leaves the performers exposed – if the audience are dancing in their seats, or laughing every few seconds, they’ll be hoping instead to see some truly awe-inspiring circus tricks.
Things do get going right at the end – the last five minutes is a reminder of how exuberant Briefs can be. Fortunately this is a long run on the Southbank, so hopefully they can inject some more pizazz along the way…