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‘Party Ghost’ // Double Take and Cluster Arts

‘Party Ghost’ was entrancing.

Returning from festivals across the globe, the award-winning macabre, and wonderfully hilarious ‘Party Ghost’ has arrived to haunt and delight audiences for the 2023 Brisbane Festival. Directed by Nicci Wilks and performed by the talented duo Olivia Porter and Jarred Dewey, this show is uproarious, mesmerising, shocking and clever all at once.

Mixing elements of cirque, theatre, drag and puppetry, Porter and Dewey offer up performances that are equal parts amazing as they are child-like, melodramatic, and, at times, downright disturbing. Slapstick and physicality are front and centre, with awe-inspiring stunts and playful tricks taking a humble death-day party to dazzling heights and bizarre corners of our minds.

Porter and Dewey perform as sassy siblings who audaciously compete for the audience’s attention. This sibling rivalry pushes the creepy twin trope to grotesque, violent and hilarious places with humour and dazzling stunts grounding what are otherwise two incongruous and deeply disturbed child-like figures.

Beneath the white sheets, child-like demeanours, and ghoulish makeup are two talented performers offering up a medley of enthralling circus performances, including trapeze, juggling, acrobatics, and puppetry, to name a few highlights. Throw in a chaotic mix of dismembered limbs, child-like violence, countless classic gothic and horror references, and a game of “pass-away-the-parcel”, and this ghost party is the perfect morbid celebration of uninhibited play, high-camp characters, and high-energy entertainment.

Nicci Wilks does well to maintain the organisation amongst the child-like chaos, with each unexpected sequence threading together depictions of a mother mourning the loss of her children, twins celebrating their death-day, and a familiar feat of ghosts seeking the living’s attention.

Jarred Dewey’s performance is skillful and intricate, whether playing a woman wrestling with grief on a trapeze (in a gorgeous black gown and platform stiletto heels to boot!), ricocheting his body from one set item to the next in a violent slapstick running gag, or vogueing beneath a strobe light to the Bernard Herrman’s infamous “The Murder” soundtrack from Psycho.

Porter’s entrance, and indeed her performance throughout the hour-long production, is more quietly mischievous – subtle yet smug. Entering beneath a pile of her mother’s tear-filled tissues, Olivia Porter graces the stage with a devilish smile and fixed gaze that captivates from start to finish. Porter tantalises the audience with acrobatics and juggling that playfully peppers in imaginative gestures that are clever, mysterious and sometimes even salacious.

While this pair are tantalising as individuals when fighting over the spotlight, their combined chemistry, comedic timing, and detailed acrobatic feats are the most impressive. Highlights include miming along to Vincent Price’s instructions on “How to See Ghosts or Surely Bring Them to You” and a detailed yet ridiculous contorted-body puppet show set to Adele’s Hello.

This enthralling dark comedy is energised, delightful, ghoulish, and twisted in all the best ways. Talent and terror await those lucky enough to be on the next party invite list.

‘Party Ghost’ performed until Saturday, 23rd September 2023 at Metro Arts. For more information visit the Brisbane Festival website.

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