Circus Trick Tease: Werk It {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Aerobics. You know, fluro spandex, high-energy movement to a killer high tempo backing track. I have not had much exposure to this form of exercise. It was only when I got up too early for CheezTV and caught the tail end of Aerobics OzStyle on Channel Ten. I never thought I would catch something like this in person, let alone at the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Hold up, an aerobics performance as a comedy show? That is right! Circus Trick Tease – Werk It is a surprisingly hilarious take on the artform of circus crossed with aerobics. The production has carefully mastered the art of physical comedy in a way that must be seen to be believed!

With Malia Walsh at the helm as producer, director, and performer, the Werk It crew consists of five performers and co-creators with Richard Sullivan, Lisa Lottie, Cassia Jamieson, and Vincent Van Berkel to round out the crew. All five have a background in circus and gymnastics, and it was clear right from the beginning of the show that we were in for a wild night of fun and incredible displays of strength.

The show opens with an aerobics number with all five dressed in classic florescent spandex dancing and working out to a high energy track. They use each other as props with various displays of jumping and tumbling over each other. There is also an array of balancing acts that are an incredible display of strength, balance, and trust. Now, you are probably thinking to yourself; “This is a comedy show, so how is aerobics funny?”. The answer is simpler than you think. Throw in some sexually suggestive poses and body movements then add in some deliberate missteps, and you have a performance that is now not only physically impressive, but also utterly hilarious.

Werk It is more than just aerobics, it is also a display of some impressive and seriously dangerous circus tricks. This includes two awe inspiring aerial acts that are split between Malia Walsh and Richard Sullivan. The first being Walsh with what I can best describe as a tradie’s love letter to knock-off drinks on a Friday arvo. The whole crew are dressed in what I would call, ‘Road Work Couture’ with high-vis with traffic cones and orange plastic fencing worn as a dress. Everything about this part of the show is quintessentially Australian from the VB cans to a blessing of Vegemite (trust me, it is hilarious).

As the crew are dancing around the stage, a beer keg drops down from the ceiling and Walsh grabs on and puts on an incredible aerial display. What makes this display even more exhilarating is the round shape of the beer keg and Walsh wearing giant platform heels whilst spinning around 15ft off the ground. An incredible display of core strength and balance.

The risk is only amplified with the aerial performances when Richard Sullivan takes to the stage for an aerial aerobic class. Sullivan uses a trapeze style bar hanging from the ceiling that contains a singular disc right in the middle of the bar, small enough to rest your head on. Yup, Sullivan spends most of his time in the air, upside down, on his head. If that was not impressive enough, he then begins to swing from left to right and removes his hands, balancing precariously on his head as the bar swings across stage. I was both shocked and impressed by the level of bravery and strength.

Cassia Jamieson is a strong and powerful individual that performs several lifts that left me in awe. One of which includes not one, but two crew members stacked on her shoulders. With nothing but the hard stage floor below to catch them should they fall; this feat was extremely impressive. Jamieson also performs a trick where she lays on her back on an apparatus where she flips and spins an object with her feet. Her performance reaches its climax with a coffee table being spun by her feet. I can only imagine the level of concentration and years of practice that it took to master this skill. Truly impressive.

Vincent Van Berkel is the lifting companion of the performance. Either doing the lifting or being lifted, his strength is quite impressive. His comedic timing is perfect along with his use of body language and facial expressions, Van Berkel is the perfect companion to each performance. He also has his own solo moments, one of mention would be the use of a heavy kettle weight and the skolling of a Solo can. Backflips are already hard enough, but try doing it with a 12kg kettle weight? The whole show would not be complete without Van Berkel.

The Madonna inspired ‘Vogue’ hula hoop section by Lisa Lottie is fantastic. It opens with Walsh and Van Berkel on either side of the stage dressed in black tights and a bra fitted with Coke bottles. Yes, you read that correctly, Coke bottles. Both performers make their way to the centre of stage where Walsh produces a champagne glass and Van Berkel tips his coke-tit down and pours coke into the glass. It was side-splittingly hilarious and highlights how important Van Berkel is to the show. Lisa Lottie then enters the stage and spins a countless amount of hula hoops in various positions, at times with no less than five hoops at once.

The balance and concentration that Lottie displays is incredible. I can barely muster the movements to spin one hoop around my waist let alone several. Lottie also involves the crowd during this performance by bouncing the hoops into the audience, adding in the comedy aspect to the routine. And if this display of balance is not impressive enough, earlier in the show after the tradies routine, Lottie balances a single hoop on her head and begins to undress. I have no idea how she does it! I can barely take off a sock without falling over, yet she can do it whilst balancing a hoop on her forehead? To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

Werk It would not be the show that it is without brilliant choice in costuming and accompanying music. The soundtrack is perfectly curated to match each performance, consisting of iconic pop culture classics such as Missy Elliot’s ‘Work It’ to Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ that included a discman and a piece of paper that gets, you guessed it, torn.

Every performer has their own time to shine, and they work effortlessly as a team. With little to no dialog, they each convey the message to the crowd with ease as they let their facial expressions and body language tell the story. There was not a single moment during the show where I felt myself bored or thinking “I’ve seen this before”. Because whilst some of the acts have been done before, they have not been done in the ‘Werk It way’ before, and that is what makes this show unique. It is not just an aerobic circus performance; it is a unique comedic almost paradisiacal take on the genre. This is one show I am extremely thankful to have seen and I can’t wait to see what Circus Trick Tease do next.

Circus Trick Tease – Werk It is by far the highlight of the festival for me. I have seen cabaret, improvised comedy and stand up, but never did I imagine I would see an act like this. Having seen it in the final weekend of the festival, there are only two chances left to catch this fantastic performance. Tonight at 9:30pm and Sunday at 8:30pm at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre.

So, if you have nothing to do this weekend, you will just have to see this!

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