The Dark Party
Judith Wright Centre
28 – 30 November 2013
Reviewed by Josh Kirwan
Josh has been galavanting around Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast with me doing work experience this week. I thought I’d throw him in the deep end and take him to
a) meet some of the movers and shakers of Queensland theatre (thanks friends, for stopping doing what you do long enough to talk about what you do!)
b) experience a show that might not be to his liking
c) challenge him to get his thoughts together and write a review for us
A trio of melancholic, pathetic hobo clowns discover real laughter, true sorrow and a lot of pain.
Laugh and squirm as they do their worst with all the toys they never got for Christmas – swords, staple guns, angle grinders, rat traps and car batteries.
The Dark Party. It’s sideshow noir to rattle your cage.
The grim and macabre series of events in The Dark Party had me grinding my teeth down to the gums. In an almost sold out theatre at the Judith Wright Centre, The Dirty Brothers put on their sideshow noir performance called The Dark Party. Full to bursting with crazy ideas and cringe-worthy stunts, I would not advise the weak of stomach to go and see this show.
Admittedly, I must be one of the last people to talk about this show, as it debuted in Melbourne in 2008 and has been presented all over Australia, New Zealand and Europe to packed houses and critical acclaim. One theatre in France even squeezed an extra 100 people into their 800-seat auditorium. Now however, they are back for a three show run at the Judy.
I must say that I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed it or not! Sometimes I just wanted them to stop what they were doing and let me leave, and at other times I was enthralled and wanted them to hurry up and do the stunt so I could see what was going to happen.
YES. THAT HAPPENED.
Many from the audience said that they spent much of the time with their eyes closed or hiding behind the chair in front of them and yet I didn’t shut my eyes once. I don’t know if I should be worried by this, but I will admit that I had some kind of sick fascination – I just had to watch what was happening, no matter how awful or painful it was. I suppose that the point of doing stunts like that is to challenge us…and I think some small part of me did enjoy it.
However I don’t think I will ever be able to look at a staple gun, a violin bow or a car battery in the same way ever again! With their sideshow stunts consisting of one fellow stapling flowers to his chest (and tongue!) in lieu of a lei while another plays a saw, one man stabbing himself in the face with a small knife and another lifting up a car battery with his nipples after shocking himself with jumper cables. Did I mention they did the Zorba over mousetraps and rattraps? INSANE is the best word I have in my arsenal to describe these three gentleman.
It has to be said that these three performers, in addition to their amazingly high pain threshold, have a good sense of what they are doing. Megan Hanson put it perfectly when she wrote, “No words are spoken but their facial expressions and movement say it all, achieving a perfect balance of comedy and tragedy. They’re a bit like sad clowns, but with mohawks”. They make us go from wanting to cry when the big guy appears to be pulling himself on a rope attached by a meat hook in his arm, to making us laugh out loud when they invite us to throw ping pong balls at their heads (handed out during the opening of the show) while wearing cones around their necks, imitating the clowns at sideshow alley. This was the ideal method to engage a dubious audience.
It cannot be denied that these three have a good sense of how to please a crowd. While I am fairly certain that most people enjoyed it, I know for a fact that not everyone did. But that is just the way of art/live theatre I suppose; some people will love it and some people will hate it.
Make the trip to experience this performance before it finishes tomorrow (Saturday), even if only so that you can be sure, 100%, that you don’t ever want to see a show like this again.
What else is happening at The Judy? Plenty! Secure one of the last remaining seats for Adele: Rumour Has It (the return season) 11 -14 December (you can still get a ticket for the up-late show!), and tonight only, if you can beg or steal a ticket (it’s officially sold out – well done, team!), catch Kupka’s Piano, the final of a series of “expeditions” in 2013.
Taking its name from Bohemian painter František Kupka’s iconic 1909 painting The Piano Keys, Brisbane-based contemporary music ensemble Kupka’s Piano aims to entice audiences into hearing new sounds, new structures, new musical ideas. This ensemble fills a much-needed place in Brisbane’s music scene, profiling the best and latest from European, Australian and international modern art music. If you miss them this time, keep an ear close to the ground next year when they’ll be back!