REVIEW: Absinthe equal parts erotic and hilarious

ABSINTHE: Michael Nowosadko and Zbigniew Sobierakski (Poland) displaying extraordinary grace and strength with their Hand Balance. Picture by MARK TURNER

ABSINTHE: Michael Nowosadko and Zbigniew Sobierakski (Poland) displaying extraordinary grace and strength with their Hand Balance. Picture by MARK TURNER

Wheeler Place, Newcastle

Friday, February 27 @ 9.30pm

When you step into the intimate spiegeltent erected in Newcastle's Wheeler Place you could be anywhere in the world.

The bustle of the city disappears not just from sight inside Spiegelworld's temporary venue - but also from mind.

You could be in a Belgian basement or French laneway in the late 1800s.

Or perhaps inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where this show has been an evergreen attraction.

The circular room has a smoky elegance; its ornate wooden booths, stained glass and multi-tiered floor plan offer a rustic decadence beyond the traditional circus venues we're accustomed to in regional Australia.

But Absinthe is no traditional circus performance.

Costumes are kept to the bare minimum and the humour pushes the boundaries of bawdiness.

These two ingredients make a delicious cocktail.

But while the sexually explicit jokes, provocative crowd interactions and unexpected moment of nudity make Absinthe a side-splitting affair, they also mean it's not for kids.

Spiegelworld is not so much Cirque du Soleil's evil twin, it's more a distant relative who's served prison time and is off the Christmas card list.

Spiegelworld is not so much Cirque du Soleil's evil twin, it's more a distant relative who's served prison time and is off the Christmas card list. - NICK MILLIGAN

Performed in the round, the production is a hybrid of cabaret, burlesque and circus arts.

And you're breathlessly close to the action.

As the stage slowly rotates, incredible feats of balance, dexterity and brute strength are seen from all angles.

The Gazillionaire

The Gazillionaire

When the cast playfully take shots of absinthe between tricks, it adds an informal and boisterous atmosphere to proceedings.

Listing the various acts would spoil the surprise, but many are equal parts captivating and erotic.

Belarus duo Andrei Sizonenka and Aliasandra Yurkavets keep hearts in mouths throughout their astonishing "human foosball" routine.

But all the acts are worthy of a mention - there is no misfire in the structure of Absinthe.

And with young, beautiful and athletic performers plucked from the far corners of Europe, invariably dressed in very little, there's enough eye candy to make punters feel like they've gotten their money's worth.

Shrill cheers from groups of women, one a hen's party, signal approval for the many sculpted male torsos on display.

Presided over by sleazy master of ceremonies The Gazillionaire, played by former Cirque du Soleil clown Voki Kalfayan, and his assistant Penny Pibbets (actress Anais Thomassian), Absinthe has a wonderfully irreverent flow.

And after Penny's show-stopping monologue, you will never look at sock puppets the same way again.

Absinthe runs nightly until Sunday, March 15.

Tickets on sale now through Ticketek.

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