Roll up, roll up, and watch these muscles flex. With white feathers on his shoulders and a little of Dr. John the Night Tripper beneath his hat, ringmaster Elyas Khan has brought his ensemble to town. On the banks of the Yarra River, direct from the U.K., Limbo is here as part of Melbourne Festival. Unpacked from the chest, the death-defying, hand-balancing, internally-sprung tomfoolery of Danik Abishev; the Chinese pole and beat-boxing smooth stop-and-start controlled hijinks of Mikael Bres; the out-of-this-world fire-breathing, sword-swallowing, gum-chewing sass of Heather Holliday; the magnificent ‘mind-bending’ contortions of the tattooed Tigris (with forearms not unlike Popeye’s, and something of a measured roar); and the heavenly aerial acrobatics of Allard. With Mick Stuart on ‘polymba,’ drums and bass, and Eamon McNelis (of The Band Who Knew Too Much and Flap! fame) on trumpet and sousaphone, bringing a little of the New Orleans brass band sound, the objective is clear: if you’ve a pulse, you will be entertained.
Limbo draws not only on circus stock roots, but also on the titillation of cabaret. With my waist un-synched, I may not quite have been transported back to Le Chat Noir in Montmartre in the late 1880s or Le Lido on the Champs-Élysées in the 1940s, but on a balmy spring eve, it came close, this melange, very close. In the blue smoky haze and dim lighting we all became a little of our own inner Toulouse-Lautrec or Marlene Dietrich.