Briefs: Close Encounters review (Brisbane Powerhouse)

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Ten years since its origins as Club Briefs in Brisbane’s West End, Briefs comes home, studded with international accolades, to perform Close Encounters at Melt Festival.

In Close Encounters, the Briefs spacemen have landed from the future to bring us hope – to let us know that everything is going to be okay. Hosted with typical lashings of glitter, warmth and brilliant Brissie trashiness by Shivannah (Fez Faanana), we are welcomed into a future where violence is no longer; diversity of all kinds is respected; and arguments are settled by “glitterbombing the shit out of each other”.

The Powerhouse Theatre is set up in the round, so our own encounters can get as close as possible to the tang of sweaty boylesque bodies. And Briefs repeat offenders will recognise the traditional raffle bucket doing the rounds. (It’s been nine years and I’ve still not won the sur-prize, but it’s always worth your gold coin.)

Faanana is right to point out Australia Council’s neglect of this show, (“That’s why our props look so shit”), but, as usual the team does a lot with a little – each costume (designed by Dallas Dellaforce and Lisa Fa’alafi) is as clever as it is fun to strip off.

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Faanana’s sparkling green alien get-up (and the accompanying routine) is jaw-dropping stuff, but it would be hard to pick a favourite outfit from the spacemen and scientists. Retro-future meets island-punk in Close Encounters, with feathers and neon lights the signatures of the show – and keep your eyes on that wonderful UFO lighting rig in the sky. Otherworldly light (designed by Paul Lim) is a strength throughout, backed up by familiar sci-fi sound bites juxtaposed with left-of-centre pop.

Close Encounters steps away from Briefs’ scrappy origins to become their most slick, cohesive show to date. It’s pretty tame by Briefs’ standards – dicks stay neatly wrapped up, for the most part – but the risqué mood is traded for striking aerial and contemporary dance routines.

Each of these boys has his specialty but Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Harry Clayton-Wright’s disco routine to Running Up That Hill is a highlight, as is Louis Biggs, who returns to Briefs to juggle mad science and magic. Mark Winmill is the undisputed king of aerials though Thomas Worrell might give him a run for his money. Dale Woodridge-Brown hops to some timely clowning, too.

There are well-meaning but wishy-washy political themes, riffing off Andre 3000’s slogan jumpsuits and Oprah’s #TimesUp speech. But the idea at the show’s heart is solid – that art like this is a message from a future where it not only gets better, but gets “stunning, glorious and glittery”.

Briefs runs at Brisbane Powerhouse until 2 June 

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