Spiegelworld’s EMPIRE: A Boffo Blend of Balance, Bawdiness, Burlesque … and Bananas

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By Naomi Gold
photos by Beaudry
Just hangin’ around
Evenko and Spiegelworld Canada are presenting EMPIRE under the Spiegeltent in downtown Montreal.  EMPIRE is a fast-paced, zany, breathtaking – but at times profane – multimedia show. Acrobats, contortionists and gymnasts, with seemingly elastic bands of muscle, literally stretch anatomical limits of human biology.  Rubbery solo, pas de deux and ménage à trois performances exude sensuality, in costumes that are lacy and racy.  Some acts are set to the live music of vocalist, Miss Purple and her guitarist, Moondog. Others feature recorded tracks, dazzling light shows and evoke vaudevillian theatre.
Rocking and ROLLIN’
Outrageous hosts Fanny & Oscar thoroughly engage their audience with bawdy humour, sometimes corny, comedic ‘slapshtick’ and maintain the ‘momo cum mojo’ throughout this 90-minute extravaganza.   Gyrating seductively, the exhibitionists perform sidesplitting risqué numbers in preparation for the climactic audience ‘member’ (pun intended) routine.  
Some performances seemed familiar to Montreal’s cirque-savvy audience, but they were easily won over by the suspended bubble gal, wheeling Asian dude (in pigtails), and spinning skaters.  Other highlights were the Gorilla Girls, bouncy Ethiopian boys, Carrot Man and his top Lime Green Lady. The 3D Graffiti Guy’s wondrous feats of equilibrium, balance and nanoprecise symmetry had me rethinking Newtonian physics and the laws of gravity.
Just chillin’ in my bubble
One glaring slip-up in an otherwise entertaining production, was the truly heave-worthy banana shpeel (3-way er, pun intended).  The unfunny, revolting spectacle was bad enough, but hurling masticated banana projectiles at viewers was truly scary.
By show’s end all was forgiven – if not forgotten – and spectators responded with rapturous applause and a standing ovation.  Loath to leave, fans finally exited laughing, as they were commanded to “get the expletive” out.  
:::Uh oh::: I feel a sneeze comin’ on….
EMPIRE takes place in an intimate 700-seat, Spiegeltent housed on the corner of René-Lévesque and Bleury. Grunge graffiti outside EMPIRE’S marquee, and the surrounding tent city lend street cred to the production.  The big top itself is a cozy venue featuring antique wood, stained glass, beveled mirrors and a tiny centre stage where spectators can lean in. Half-moon banquettes surrounding large cocktail tables are great for groups; premium seats, mere inches from the stage, draw you in – and in some cases – ONstage (so be warned).  Beer and snacks are served throughout. EMPIRE is not kid-friendly and contains some coarse language. It runs until June 7th and ticket prices start at $64.00.   

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