Oracle, Arts Centre Melbourne – Theatre Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the powerhouse performance troupe that brought the fire of passion in Matador, Bass Fam Creative return to the stage with the mystical and mythical Oracle – a journey through the stars that combines dance, burlesque and circus acts that will have your jaw on the floor and your hands and throat raw from cheering.

Once again written, directed, and produced by Bass G Fam, Oracle takes audiences through the 12 tales of the zodiac, weaving myth and stories from 3 key ancient civilisations with stunningly choreographed dances, sexy burlesque, and gravity-defying circus acts to create a visual unlike anything you’ve seen before. Throughout its approximate 110-minute run, Oracle showcases each zodiac sign’s origin story, and at the centre of these 12 tales stands the Oracle herself (played by Jazmin Varlet), a divine figure “robbed of sight but blessed with vision”.

Unlike Bass Fam Creative’s Matador, Oracle is guided by spoken word and Varlet’s Oracle provides a constant narration. She opens the show suspended from wires, an ethereal figure floating above the cast and the crowd, asserting that she is all-seeing and all-knowing. Following her introduction, there is a short opening performance by the core dancers and then the entrance of the first zodiac.

Using ancient civilisations as the inspiration lends an incredible amount of creative avenues for music and costume design, and the design team took full advantage of their possibilities. The stage design was kept simple, with a pillared archway atop some stairs and broken pillar bases on the short catwalk stage. By keeping the set design minimal allowed it to embody every era and story through the dance and costume elements, a very clever choice by the design team.

The costumes, true to the eras they were designed to mirror, were both incredibly opulent and extremely scant (fair warning if you’re more conservative in your tastes – there’s A LOT of bare chests and bums). Standouts from the massive array include Keeva Svikart as the Egyptian goddess Ma’at who was literally carried on stage in a glittering mummy wrap before being unzipped to reveal a gorgeous tasselled belly dancer attire, Andrea James Lui as the pole-dancing embodiment of Sagittarius replete with horns, tail and metallic gold ‘hooves’, and Lisa Herbert’s gorgeous angel wings.

Similar to Matador, the music used throughout Oracle was a mix of modern favourites, instrumentals and classic anthems, all re-composed to have a more dramatic, other-worldly feel; the use of Lil Nas X’s Montero to tell the story of Persephone’s crowning as the Queen of the Underworld was a perfect pairing and stood out as one of the more memorable pairings throughout the show. What Oracle did a little differently to its predecessor was the inclusion of live vocals from the Oracle herself. Jazmin Varlet’s presence on stage during the more emotionally driven performances was a lovely touch, and her powerful vocals rang very clearly through the theatre. The only downside to her singing was a lack of diction that made some of the lyrics she was singing difficult to separate from the instrumental. Despite this small shortcoming, having her stand on stage with the performers really fed into the narrative that she was an omnipresent being witnessing the zodiacs’ stories unfold.

As was expected, the performers in Oracle are so incredibly talented, each with a variety of skills to display like aerial artistry, ropes, silks, hoops, and dance. Each one was amazing in equal measure, but some of the biggest standout moments were from burlesque performer Bettie Bombshell as the fabled hero Hercules in the tale of the star sign Leo, and contortionist and dancer Soliana Ersie as Crios, the sign of Cancer. Perfectly cast, Bombshell’s personality shone through as regal and playful as she performed with fire sticks, whips, and a classic strip tease, eagerly encouraging the crowd to cheer for her, while Ersie had the audience in awe with her ability to twist and bend her body into different shapes and configurations.

It can be a difficult feat to live up to the expectations set by previous successful works, but with Oracle, Bass Fam Creative came out swinging. Through its captivating blend of circus, dance, and burlesque, expect to be transfixed by Oracle and its array of incredible performers from curtain rise to curtain fall.

Oracle has already completed its run at Arts Centre Melbourne but it will be at The Princess Theatre in Brisbane next from Jan 13 – 16 and then at Adelaide Fringe from Feb 18 – Mar 20. Hopefully it will have a return season for Melbourne soon.

Photography by Ben Vella.

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4 thoughts on “Oracle, Arts Centre Melbourne – Theatre Review”

  1. Belinda Malkoun says:

    My 10year old wanted to take me to this show here in Melbourne. I was so excited to go with him as he is into star signs and love art, and then I was told that it wouldn’t be recommended for a 10 year old, they said the way they dress or dance maybe inappropriate.
    I see the human body and dance to be an art and can’t see what they are suggesting. How bad is it?

    1. Hi Belinda!
      I’ve checked with the writer who reviewed this and they’ve advised that there is no explicit nudity, but the outfits can be very revealing.
      It’s a circus, cabaret, dance, burlesque.

    2. Jeanette Bankes says:

      I feel its a wonderful education for children and a truly healthy expression and celebration of the human form.

    3. Charlie Daniels says:

      18+ only. Wouldn’t bring kids to this, or see it with parents.

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