JUNE 2023 | Volume 228
Briefs Factory, an Australian all-male, gender-bending burlesque group, has been touring for over a decade. Dirty Laundry, their new party-cabaret show, was postponed for three years due to the pandemic but has now finally arrived on The Cultch’s York Theatre stage. With elements of drag, circus, comedy, dance, and music, the production is an all-around rambunctious showcase of talent and exuberance.
Co-founder of Briefs Factory, Fez Faanana, also known as drag star Shivannah, who at one point appears about 20 feet tall while wearing heels and a feather fascinator, is the director as well as host and MC. With a natural charm that captivates from the get-go, he snappily guides the audience throughthe tightly-packed variety show.
The minimal set design, consisting of washing machines, chairs, and a table, allows for the varied display of artistic disciplines to shine through. There’s flawless juggling prowess, a bewitching aerial performance to FKA Twigs’ “Cellophane,” a squirm-inducing yet oddly alluring sequence featuring sword-swallowing, and the whip-cracking of a rose firmly placed between butt cheeks, just to name a few of the acts. Every performer is a powerhouse, bringing a clearly honed, unique sensibility to the stage. Their dynamic as a group is also a real treat to witness, with moments of dazzling choreography punctuating the show’s beginning and end.
In this show, bodies command the stage in their most unapologetic and uninhibited expression, whether that’s covered in makeup and glitter, clad in briefs and tennis shoes with socks, or donning only strategically placed tassels. The show embraces the concept of revealing the risqué or "improper,” as implied by its title, and has the wholehearted intention of invoking a similar sense of liberation in the audience. It wasn’t long before the theatre quickly filled with enthusiastic cheers, uproarious laughter, and finger-whistling as bums were flashed or impressive stunts achieved. The audience seemed to float in a bubble of unabashed fun.
And yet, the show's title also alludes to some deeper themes.Faanana reveals how the collective faced rejections from funding bodies, citing a lack of artistic merit. Addressing this criticism and keeping the zany spirit of the show alive, the MC starts reading erotica from a novel during a delightfully chaotic striptease by “contemporary dancers who identify as strippers.”
Satirizing the arbitrary conventions that perpetuate often elitist artistic hierarchies and distinctions, Dirty Laundry fully embraces its coarse humour, gender-challenging concepts, and genre-defying format, paying homage to the transgressive and picaresque traditions of cabaret and drag.
As described by the Briefs Collective themselves, this show is a protest through a party. Coming out of some difficult years for the entire world, Dirty Laundry feels like a celebration in more ways than one. Having experienced the show on opening night, I witnessed first-hand and observed from the reactions of those around me how the show sparked a much-needed sense of joy, one that centered queerness and artistry through unrepentant self-expression. A riot of talent, Dirty Laundry is impressive, sexy, hilarious, thoughtful, and consistently entertaining in a way that few shows are.Reviewed by Angie Rico
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