The circus has always been a place of wonder. Since its inception, the travelling companies of acrobats, musicians, tightrope walkers, jugglers, and all other varieties of performers have delighted and surprised audiences, creating moments of clutched chests followed by brilliant sighs of relief. Queer revue achieved all of that and more.
The sketches had remarkable range, touching on the exhaustive constraints of ‘Okta Verify,’ wherein a student was forced to dance and solve riddles, as well as broaching serious issues, such as Mark Latham’s anti-trans bill in a ‘Trans Agenda’ skit. Moments of poignancy and even sadness when briefly reflecting on the discrimination faced by the community were interspersed with light-heartedness to lift the mood, such as the demand for ‘spongebob themed T-shots,’ and ‘transsing the rest of the Umbrella Academy.’ The revue had its moments of dark humour though, such as the exuberant exclamation that a girl who had identified as all the letters in ‘LGBT’ would receive ‘lifelong trauma’- but with the vibrant set, costumes and histrionic acting, the audience were not left unsettled for long. Popular sketches also played on stereotypes, such as english teacher solidarity and wlw relationships moving at lightning speeds – but from an autonomous cast, this did not feel tacky or trite, and such tropes were revived and refreshed in surprising circumstances.
Other highlights included a convincing Ben Shapiro asserting ‘gender is what’s in your pants,’ only for an actor to silently, and powerfully, reveal baked beans from their trousers. The second act contained many stronger sketches, and the show reached its peak in the fast-paced finale, wherein Peter McKenzie-Hutton skilfully folded a paper crane behind his back. Infectiously jovial choreography was used tactfully to increase audience engagement and hype up said moment, compounded by blaring Britney Spears and colourful lights.
The conviction of the actors in assuming well-known characters was dedicated and faultless. If the show occasionally faltered, it was incredibly self-aware – such as an ad hoc tap dancing scene broken up for the intermission, or the proclamation, ‘this show has already been too horny!’
Although the running theme of the circus could have been more pronounced, it clearly tied the 110 minute show together. When using the motif of circus misfits to evoke a narrative of self and community acceptance, the writing dodged clichés, instead creating short moments of tenderness and eliciting the audience’s awe. It imparted a lasting reminder of the importance of diversity, support and community, more important than ever after the isolating climate of 2020.