‘Club Culture Cabaret’ was inclusive.
Put your feet on the ground. Let them remind you about the history of where you are. Remind yourself of the beauty, the trauma, the lives lost, the existence shared. Say thank you to the Traditional Owners of the land. Acknowledge their past, their present, their future and practise gratitude for the land that you call home. Fez Faanana’s acknowledgment of Country was all this and more. They opened Briefs Factory International’s newest show, ‘Club Culture Cabaret’, with a feeling of deep gratitude that continued throughout.
Meanjin was honoured with the first-ever performance of ‘Club Culture Cabaret’, a new cabaret that gives a voice and a stage to performers of colour from across the region. Education and entertainment went hand in hand, led by Samoan Drag Queen Fez Faanana. Faanana led the tiny but mighty cast of performers and created a through-line between the talented acts. It was a largely slow-paced show, with Faanana regularly coming on stage to chat with the audience and give context to the acts.
Faanana shared a piece of their own history through a video of their brother receiving a traditional Samoan tattoo. The process took over a week using traditional Samoan techniques. It was a raw display on the stark Powerhouse brick walls that had the audience both grimacing from the close-up footage and marvelling at the significant history on display.
The Powerhouse stage was as stark and unapologetic as the acts on it. With zero set to speak of, the lighting spoke volumes to support the powerful acts. Masterminded by Sophie Watkins, a particular highlight was the lighting effects during Garret Lyon’s two powerhouse songs, which used spotlights to build towards their crescendo.
Lyon was an absolute stand out, singing pop anthems ‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Chaka Khan and ‘Leave (Get Out)’ by JoJo, The audience was left singing along and reliving their best 2000s memories. Lyon was an equally skilled performer as vocalist and brought charisma and incredible energy to the powerhouse stage.
One cannot go past CIRCfest Meanjin circus legend Dale Woodbridge-Brown, who features on multiple bills throughout the festival. The award-winning Kamilaroi man from Mugindi not only cut roses with the crack of a whip, but defied gravity with a lasso, threaded string through his nose and out his mouth, swallowed a balloon, and thoroughly entertained audiences with his seemingly impossible tricks. Not only an incredible circus artist, Woodbridge-Brown had impeccable comedic timing and an incredible stage presence, making for another stand-out performance.
The good times just kept on coming with iconic drag artist Luna Thicc, who performed a sassy rendition of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and Queensland drag legend Malika, who strutted her stuff to
‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’. Both legends in their industry, the queens gave voice to BIPOC performers and entertained audiences with their unique acts.
To round out the cast, Faanana performed their own act, making the audience smile with some Drag Queen, flower-themed slight of hand.
‘Club Culture Cabaret’ was a production that brought out the kindness and support of the Brisbane theatre community. While definitely a slower-paced cabaret than what some might be used to, the production aimed to connect. Theatre exists to tell stories and what better stories to share than the ones that form the culture and the heritage of the place we get to call home? ‘Club Culture Cabaret’ will further develop and refine as Briefs Factory International continues to give it life–and what a great experience to see its first iteration.
‘Club Culture Cabaret’ performed for one night only at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information visit the Briefs Factory International website.