Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art

22 – 29 June 2013


Reviewed by Michelle Bull 



Step into the Salon, immerse yourself in the bohemian divine…


Inspired by the decadence of the Salon in eras gone by, this premiere production invites you to an evening unlike any other.


The hostess welcomes you as other guests arrive. Some are shy, others less so. Indulge in a spectacle of physical feats and soaring vocals. As the exhibitionists compete to be the life of the party, you notice something simmering beneath those sweet smiles…


Created by Timothy Brown (Queensland Ballet, Expressions Dance Company) in collaboration with seven remarkable physical, circus and dance performers, plus pop-art music oracles Michelle Xen and the Neon Wild, Salon is a must-see show for fans of the exotic, the erotic, the sublime and the exquisite.



Welcome to the Salon, a place where ballerinas collide with acrobatics and glam-synth pop; in the words of our sumptuous host, “Have you got a drink, f***ers?”




Dressed in neon brights and old-world Euro chandeliers, on Saturday night the Judith Wright was transformed into the ‘Bohemian Divine’, as the newest creation by Timothy Brown (Queensland Ballet, Expressions Dance Company) opened to a sellout crowd. Combining creative forces were seven physical performers (acrobats/dancers) and the visual pop spectacle of Michelle Xen and the Neon Wild.


Through pulsating beats and Michelle’s distinctive sound, bodies writhed and threw themselves into a power play of movement and music.


Beginning from a place of submission, our host for the evening called us to play voyeur to the relationships playing out onstage as they fought for balance and continued to evolve in a cabaret of power.


This underlying idea of power-play ran through the show and took the form of relationships, alcoholism, violence, competition and love – all strong, all relevant… but maybe a little too much to take in over all?


Reflecting, there seemed to be a progression, thematically from ideas of pre-existing ideas of equality, power – the past to now, which perhaps was summed up perfectly in the words of our host “Are you a then-ist or a now-ist?”, an interesting and relevant comment for today.



I am admittedly a fan of simplicity and perhaps that’s why I felt a bit distracted in this production, we were reminded time and time again of the relationship of the dominant/submissive – the Lion and the Antelope scene charmingly so- but I found there to be so ‘much’ there that the overall message became tangled up and I lost focus.


In terms of individual performances however, I felt the cast gave a committed performance, with strong characterizations and a vital onstage energy. I felt that each played to their strengths in their individual disciplines but showed less strength when taken out of their comfort zone.


There was some nice use of symbolism – the Peacock a flamboyant- old worldly character embodying the symbols traditionally linked to the Peacock as the all-seeing eye and bringer of universal justice. Interestingly, the characters comic death and rebirth on the trapeze (T’t Willow) also made reference as one whose many lives raises them to a level of perfection deserving of immortality.


Michelle Xen and the Neon Wild are a poptastic visual feast who alone command your attention. Musically, all the ingredients of pure bubblegum pop are there, the hooks, the quirky energy, the rhythms- however there is an edge to their sound that hints of something dark and sharper which both musically and theatrically make for an completely different experience. This combination worked completely in a theatrical setting and – I feel- would be more at home here than anywhere else.


My standout moments however were the two feature acts by the ‘Things’ – (acrobats David Trappes and Alex Weckes-Huck) whose skill, theatricality and energy shone in their juggling act and who- in their ‘Send in the Clowns’ piano/trapeze lament- exhibited musical and theatrical sensitivity and elegance.


I also particularly enjoyed the duet moment set to Handels ‘Ombra mai fu,’which teetered between love and violence- beautifully haunting against the tender lyrics of the aria.


Also effective was the ensemble act towards the end of the production where staged improvisations gave us visuals of relationships and power, I would have loved to have seen more ensemble moments throughout as the energy lifted and there was a great chemistry and connectedness between the performers.



Overall, I enjoyed this production. I found it perhaps a little indulgent in many ways but was nonetheless engaged by the skill of the performers and the visual and aural spectacle of Michelle Xen and the Neon Wild.


Salon must close Saturday so be quick!



Images by Dylan Evans Photography. Design by Blender.



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