‘Diva Dive’ was oxymoronic.
Inviting audiences to delight in circus and cabaret, ‘Diva Dive’ is equal parts conflict and contemporary celebration. Presented at Brisbane’s The Tivoli as part of CIRCFest Meanjin, this mixed bag of entertainment combines acts of song, dance, burlesque and comedy, which in turn, delighted a rambunctious audience who were eager to revel in the variety.
The location of this cabaret feast was well-suited to the glamorous aesthetics of The Tivoli. Entering the space, the smoke machine was on full blast, which added to the intrigue of what was to come. In fact, the whole space connected with the staging layout, to almost reveal a hidden speakeasy in a provocative parlour.
Speaking of stage design, a velvet proscenium was created inside the stage itself; with red draped curtains creating a small circus door-like entranceway for talent to emerge through. Small globe lights adorned the configuration, with curtains also bunched in a way to emulate flowers. This oozed glamour, luxury and lusciousness, which was the complete contrast to some of the crass acts that followed. While the staging was visually breathtaking, it did create some sightline issues for performers who were staged behind the velvet curtains and towards the back of the stage. From an angled view, much of the ensemble actions were missed.
Created by Finucane & Smith, ‘Diva Dive’ includes contrasting elements, like some excessive and glamorous costuming paired with budget lighting. For example, whenever performers went beyond the proscenium, torches were used as spotlights. It was a guerilla style and made for a particular look, however, it also meant performers acted as stagehands, which meant some scene transitions could have been faster. Despite that, sound and lighting worked onstage harmoniously despite a simplistic plot.
Hosted by MC Moira Finucane, a self-described ‘gothic glamazon’, Finucane did well to act as a guide between the many acts that were presented. Finucane was a chameleon with costuming, transforming from glamazon to even a ‘bogan man’ between scenes. While Finucane had a larger-than-life personality, there could have been more sharpness to some of her exchanges. It felt at times that the show wasn’t catered to accommodate the many costume changes, and in these instances, it might be worthwhile to edit some of the looks to ensure there is enough time for Finucane to transform.
Additionally, in a post-COVID theatre space, the choice to have performers physically touch audience members was questionable and felt risky.
It is undeniable that the performers within ‘Diva Dive’ are uniquely talented. From various parts of the world, each performer peppered the show with their own performing quirk, which was perfect for the variety.
Iva Rosebud was stunning, especially during the tongue-in-cheek burlesque striptease to ‘La Vie En Rose’; Anna Lumb was a circus powerhouse, with hula-hooping and trapeze stunts; Willow Sizer sang with an unusual timbre voice; Govind Pillai glittered with customary Indian dancing; and, Piera Dennerstein impressed the audience with wonderful operatics.
A stand-out of the entire production was burlesque starlet, Jazida. Showcasing her many talents, Jazida wowed the audience in her impressive costumes, displaying a mixture of fire-breathing, stripteasing and dancing stunts. Her piece with LED-charged feather fans was incredibly mesmerising, and something completely unique; especially as they changed between various lighting settings, in-sync with the ‘50 Shades of Grey’ soundtrack-type music. If Jazida were to form her own show, it would be well worth attending.
Although advertised as a 60-minute cabaret, ‘Diva Dive’ muses along for just short of two hours. While it spotlights some exceptional talent within circus and physical theatre, the production could tighten scene transitions and changes, and streamline the duration of the show.
The show’s name is an oxymoron – contrasting between ‘Diva’ and the slang term of ‘Dive’ for something dirty and dank – and this naughty but nice cabaret does well to find a balance between the two elements.
‘Diva Dive’ performed until Tuesday, 28 April 2022 at the Tivoli. For more information about the festival visit the CIRCfest Meanjin website.