My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Empire: the re-invigoration and eroticization of the circus

by Drew Rowsome

Mashing daring acrobatics with burlesque, rock n' roll and unabashed bawdiness, may not qualify as the billed "reinvention" of the circus, but Empire is most definitely a re-invigoration. Heart-stopping, hilarious and most definitely erotic, Empire takes the circus both into the future and back to its slightly sleazy roots.

Entering the Spiegeltent (a Morrocan/Bavarian/neon structure that could have been conjured by Siegfried and Roy for a gaudy glamping expedition) is entering another world. The space is intimate, the stage in the centre is small, and the exceedingly good-looking cast - all exposed abs, pecs and skintight-encased bulges - alternately goofs with the arrivals or regards us with cool hauteur. A plastic bubble descends from the ceiling and Miss A in a Bubble (Lucia Cabrines) contorts and stretches and dangles overhead, in that space between freakishness and arousing. A bubble machine kicks into overdrive and we are no longer in Kansas, we are somewhere magical.

How far will they go? A spectacular Quick Change act by the our hosts, Oscar the Impresario and Fanny the Last Remaining Showgirl (Don Colliver and Jamie Franta), goes horribly, wonderfully wrong and Oscar gleefully teases into the next act with, "You're still thinking about my floppy balls aren't you?" It is a perfect set-up for what is to come. We can expect no mercy or inhibitions, and when the "theatrical bull shit" turns out to be extraordinarily skillful and intense, sorry Oscar but as spectacularly hilarious your balls flopping is, they have been upstaged.

By the time Graffiti Guy (Andreis Jacobs Rigolo) begins his climax-of-the-show Branch Balance act, the tension has ratcheted to an almost unbearable level. The sweat not only glistens on his exposed taut torso and arms roped with muscle, we can see the individual drops as they fall to the ground. The branch swings out over the audience to the point where the taller have to duck. It is a showstopper piled on showstoppers to sensual overload.

Fanny has promised "boners for everybody in the tent tonight" and Half-Naked Asian Dude with Fucked-Up Hair (Yasu Yoshikawa) has more than made the effort to achieve that goal. Titillated and dazzled, the audience stumbles laughing and awed out of the Spiegeltent, as re-invigorated as the circus itself.

Empire runs until Sun, Oct 18 under the Spiegeltent, 318 Queen's Quay W at Rees St.

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