Briefs: Close Encounters ★★★★★
By Peter May
Christmas is fast approaching and the Briefs boys have returned on fine form once more. Set in a Spiegeltent amongst Leicester Square’s new mini Winter Wonderland they have taken up a residence over the festive season. The Briefs Factory, an all-male burlesque troupe, stormed into London from Australia in 2013 with a fusion of circus and avant-garde burlesque. Close Encounters, is artistically sharper than previous pieces, with a more fluid Science Fiction narrative and an underlying message of hope.
A circus cabaret like no other, Briefs is an assault to the senses in the best possible way. The performers, led by the commanding compere Fez Fa’anana, trick, titillate and tease in the audience in the Spiegeltent, the perfect venue for this show. Opening with a dance number that would do Kylie proud, feathers included, Close Encounters takes the audience on an intergalactic ride through the more adult stylings of circus. Jugglers, aerialists and drag queens take their turns on the stage.
The cast is masterful at making the audience feel a part of the action, and one lucky viewer gets a chance to get up close and personal with the boys with a playful lap dance that seemed to ruffle more than a few feathers. Fez also builds up a good rapport and keeps proceedings moving along nicely, while adorned in some of the most outrageous outfits this side of Drag Race.Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers’ musical direction is a key factor to the energy of this show and her set-list, a fusion of old school disco anthems and electric punk help establish the mood. Briefs is always a sure fire bet to enjoy a thoroughly entertaining show.
Von Hagens, a fedora-wearing German anatomist, came to fame in the UK when he performed a live autopsy on TV in 2002. More than a million people watched him dissect a 72-year-old male corpse, the first public autopsy for 170 years. However it was in the 1970’s when Gunther von Hagens developed a process called Plastination. By means of forced impregnation he is able to preserve human and animal tissue by replacing the fat and water with certain plastics.
The specimens do not decay, do not smell and can even be touched. Body Worlds – the resulting exhibition which has toured the world in various formats – is what you could call an anthology of the human body, a kind of love letter to our bodies and how they grow, change and eventually decay. The displays range from a five-months-pregnant woman with the inside of her womb revealed, to an interactive counter that tells you how healthy your blood pressure is.
The plastinated specimens are posed in various tableaux, from poker playing friends to a man riding a skin stripped horse. It offers 28,000 sq ft of space over 3 floors leaving a lot of ground to cover. The entire experience is so utterly bizarre, and just a tad gruesome, that it feels as if one has stepped into a science fiction film. Besides the process of ageing, the exhibition also displays the negative effects disease or an unhealthy lifestyle can have on the body.
From the thick layers of fat enveloping an obese person to the tar-infested lungs of a smoker, Body Worlds shows us, rather than tells us, exactly what harm we are doing to our bodies. Body Worlds is nothing short of a journey, one of learning, discovery, bewilderment and surprise. This is not something you will see everyday and – perhaps surprisingly – it is definitely something to share with your children. It is the miracles of life, death, birth, decay, movement and growth, all sprawled out into posing plastinates with an uncanny sense of realism.
There’s a strong range of information, displays and activities to enjoy here and, while some of these exhibits might shock you, you won’t forget your visit. The main aim of Body Worlds London is to educate visitors on how best to preserve human health and live a happy, wholesome life.