The energy is palpable when walking into Her Majesty’s Theatre, the crowd positively thrumming with excitement for what they’re about to witness. Matador, called a “celebration of love, friendship and the bonds that tie us together”, is the jaw dropping entertainment spectacular from the brain of Bass G Fam, director of Bass Fam Creative.
Using the motif of the push and pull relationship between a matador and a bull, Matador explores all the stages of relationships, sexuality and self-discovery through energising dances, sensual burlesque strip-tease and gasp-inducing circus acts. The 14 or so performers, fronted by Pip Keltie as the Matador and Christopher Politis as the Bull, tirelessly lead the audience through moments of lust, doubt, anger, empowerment for a solid 2 hours, visually represented through a variety of dance styles such as contemporary, ballet, commercial, ballroom and urban, all beautifully choreographed by the experts at Bass Fam Creative.
From the moment the curtain draws and the first beats of music begin to pump into the theatre, Matador has your attention. The opening number is a burst of raw energy as the performers cycle on and off the stage, allowing the audience to admire them all in equal measure. Truly, they’re all stunning – an assortment of fit, attractive people all spinning, jumping and writhing on stage, on poles, on hoops and on silks – clad in gorgeous Spanish-inspired costumes of flowing flamenco skirts, boleros and cumberbunds that showed off their athletic figures and musicality as performers.
Sticking with the Spanish-inspired theme, much of the music featured in Matador was reggaetón, latin pop and Spanish covers of popular hits by artists like Ed Sheeran and Adele, all mashed and blended together to create a non-stop succession, as though the performers of Matador were simply dancing in rotation to one hour-long track. The stage featured a simple design, with an elevated platform in the back, partitions shielding the wings, and an arched door to the back of the stage all configured to look like a coliseum where one might witness a bull and matador face off in real life.
The levels to the stage served the troupe well, as they dipped in and out in pairs and groups for swift costume changes side-stage; and these changes were quick. As a former dancer this writer is no stranger to the quick change between numbers, the frantic energy of knowing you have less than a minute to transform into the next version of you. Due to the nature of Matador’s music, the costume changes were so swift it was almost inconceivable. If I had been sitting any further away and without my glasses, I would have thought the ensemble was made of 30-something performers with each new group dressed and waiting for their cue in the wings. A testament to the Bass Fam Creative group’s incredible talent.
Utilising an additional catwalk stage, the performers of Matador were able to immerse themselves in their stories and the audience, directly interacting with those in the front rows during the burlesque portions. The acrobatics in these sections were gorgeous. The blend of burlesque and circus arts resulted in performances that were as sexy and intimate as they were daring and exciting, eliciting gasps and cheers from all in the crowd.
It goes without saying that Matador is such a fun and amazing show. It felt physically impossible not to groove with the music or scream and holler at the dancers as they performed, and if I hadn’t been stuck sitting in the middle of my row, I daresay I would have tried to get on stage with them. When it’s not making you emotional with its ballad portions, Matador just makes you want to move and despite its length, the energy is consistent. I felt equally energised throughout the show, but especially when the final curtain fell and the lights flickered on to reveal the whole house giving a standing ovation for these wonderful and talented performers.
Matador can be experienced as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival and will be playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until May 2, 2021.
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Photography by Ben Vella.