Come one, come all! Seaside Sideshow invites us to step back into a Victorian-era celebration of music hall, vaudeville and variety; a place occupied by magicians, showgirls and strongmen – all the fun of the fair! Who could resist a bit of a sideshow beside the seaside?
The compère's best trick was to finish with the Hokey Cokey singalong to ensure a standing ovation
On individual merits, the acts were multi-award winning performers. Unfortunately, this was a case of the whole not being greater than the sum of its parts. The evening was compèred by the charming John Cleese lookalike Mister Meredith. A genuine old-school entertainer, he kept the ball rolling with piano singalongs, which not only highlighted his vocal abilities, but also kept the audience amused.
The show kicked-off with the magician-storyteller Romany Diva of Magic who connected with the audience through her magic infused storytelling, but her tricks could have used some extra oomph. Her classic, small-scale illusions are perfect for intimate surroundings, but lose a lot of their charm on a big stage. Yet Romany was a delight wrapped up in sequins and feathers with suitably dry wit and impeccable comic timing.
Next, the stage was filled with the larger than life persona of the strongman Mighty Moustache, ready to demonstrate how steel would bow to facial hair. Funnily enough, tonight steel conquered facial hair as the performer dropped his whisks mid-performance and never recovered from the embarrassment. Although the Mighty Moustache manifested that love was the only strength that mattered, his act embodied more ‘I must destroy’ determination, as he went through solid steel bars, apples, frying pans, horseshoes and steel chains. By the time he was head-butting a watermelon to pieces, I had seen quite enough. He finished by bending a steel bar into a broken heart – an appropriate metaphor for his broken performance.
While still recovering from the disappearing moustache act, Cherry Shakewell aired her famous tassels in an energetic, yet ordinary, burlesque number. With no time to lose, the oral ping pong-juggling virtuoso Rod Laver was on next. Yes, he was spitting ping-pong balls while delivering appropriately crude jokes. If you ever get an urge to see Beethoven's Ode to Joy played with ping-pong balls and gin bottles, this one is for you. The true gem of the evening was the enchanting Missy Macabre with her unique take on fakir circus acts using broken glass, fire and beds of nails. She is a true work of art, embodying the cinematic elegance of yesteryears while stunning the audience with a spectacle of danger and beauty.
While the performances got a rather lame applause from the audience, the compère’s best trick was to finish with the Hokey Cokey singalong to ensure a standing ovation – the only way of achieving it. At times, the evening was unintentionally slapstick with falling microphones, wandering spotlights and wrong backup tapes. All good and well for a cheap show, but not for the main event.