Quiver @ MELT Festival Review

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Like a unicyclist careening around a stage, Vulcana Women’s Circus’ new cabaret, ‘Quiver' veered between an assortment of acts, but not without a wobble or two.

Performed by a mix of queer and queer friendly artists, ‘Quiver’ opened with a message of inclusion, diversity and compassion, with audience members asked to momentarily activate the flashlights on their phones in a nod to The Ghostlight Project – a movement where people gather outside theatres to create a ‘light’ to shine on any darkness in life.

Opening with a stirring song by Aunty Dawn Daylight and Tilly, the show quickly turned its attention to the maelstrom surrounding Donald Trump, with performers taking turns to tumble atop the hands of others before holding aloft signs bearing ‘Fight like a girl’, Nasty woman’, ‘Loves trumps hate’ and ‘We shall over comb’.

The first of two circus and Shibari acts by Kelsey was next, with her rope bondage skills set against a pulsing instrumental track. Later in the night, Kelsey returned to the stage to work her Shibari skills within a lyra, initially evoking images of a dreamcatcher weaver, before ultimately transforming (in my mind) into a spider waiting for its prey.

A contemplative dance routine by WaW Dance – a dance programme formed for women 50+ years of age – garnered some of the heartiest whoops of appreciation of the night. Delightfully comical yet also slightly druidic, I was left feeling frustratingly uncertain about its intent. Clearer in purpose was the group performance set to ANOHNI’s ‘4 Degrees’. As the dancers wove amongst each other, signs on their backs such as BHP, Santos, Adani and palm oil drew attention to the issue of climate change.

The air of sombreness was lifted with the arrival of Abbey Church to the stage, whose punk clown activist act drew howls of laughter from the crowd. The laughs continued with Phoebe Manning’s ‘Hope’ act which had me wiping away tears of mirth. I don’t think anyone in the crowd will be able to listen to Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why’ lyrics again without recalling Manning’s futile crotch rubbing.

Scattered among these acts were whimsically flirtatious wheelbarrow skits by Vulcana ensemble members Regan Henry and Sonja Matthews, hypnotising spoken word pieces by India Nicholls, a grave aerial cloud performance by Kieran and a set by in-your-face feminist electro punk trio, Clickbait.

The final act, a deliriously joyful male/female lyra act by Grace and Valyn, felt at odds with the rest of the show.

Reflecting on it, I can only wonder whether it was meant to serve as a flicker of light before the anticipated dark times ahead.

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