High above the swarm of the Hindley Street hustle and bustle, a calm lagoon settles in the Nineteen Ten Burlesque and Jazz Club. Shrouded by mystical feminine deities from the depths of ocean mythos, the rooftop lagoon splashes into life at the flicker of a tale… or a tail. For you see, this lagoon is merely a prop – a staged instrument – a portal into the fantastical world of Rusalka.
When I think Adelaide Fringe, I think a show as wild and wonderous as Rusalka. The mermaid extravaganza encapsulates the many flavours of the Adelaide festival season; escapism storytelling with an undertone of meaning, aerial acrobatics, hearty singing and peculiar instruments, burlesque (and lots of it), a comedy angle, a too hot to handle fire show and dreamy underwater spectacles. This cabaret performance from Cirque Nocturne injects a certain spice into the age-old tale of the mermaid. Bringing the ancient source material to a modern setting, what bubbles to the surface are themes of feminism that revaluates everything we thought we knew about our aquatic counterparts.
The mermaid, in concept, as patriarchal rebels distancing themselves from the squabbles of man and going so far as to descend into a world unreachable by land dwellers, is a fascinating one. The women of Rusalka bring their A game in eulogising these concepts in a whole manner of movement and expression. Giving literal voice to her performers and their narrative, Kate Lawrence captures the audience’s attention with her enthralling stage presence and well-researched recounts into magical fables and murky folklore. Though, bookending Kate’s mermaid tales are the events that showcase each performer in their element, whether in dance, song or aerobatics.
The highlights of the show rested high atop dangling nets and anchors in the talent of the aerialists who gracefully swam through the air as if they existed below the surface of a sensible ocean. Their bodies swayed like cursive handwriting, so delicately and poetically, having the audience genuinely believe that mermaids could fly. Yet, the inclusion of a fire spinner act went far in bolstering the show down even more fantastical avenues. Belly dancers and accordions flanked the stage that hovered above water, but it was only when a certain burlesque act sunk into said wavy depths that the show really hit its highpoint. An interactively wet mess of sheer talent and eroticism would follow and, honestly, the show knew, at this point, it had everyone under its spell.
Despite having not seen Cirque Nocturne’s other Fringe show this year, Rusalka honestly makes me wish I had. This explosion of talent and sharp intellect on mythology and its impression on modern day themes really speaks to its audience on both an empowering and pleasurable level. Keeping every viewer transfixed over an hour of intimate circus-like entertainment, Rusalka made use of its setting and quaint bar venue. Never really shying away from the limitations of cabaret, Cirque Nocturne are a must watch Adelaide group as they continue their glowing activities over the calendar year. If a jolly sailor bold cannot say no to a mermaid kiss, then you, my reader, have no chance in saying no to this enchanting, powerful show.