The Menagerie is a monthly variety show produced by Rachel Rouge. The August show was a mix of circus, burlesque, magic, comedy, music and poetry all tied together by the MC Mr Wizowski.

The performers were equally balanced between emerging artists and established performers.  Each of them obviously being chosen for their talent and stage presence, both of which was notably high across the board even if there were occasional doses of nerves.

The rhythm of the show was put together in a way that had the audience surprised and engaged at the artistic turns; for a long show we never felt bored or restless. Although Fringe bar does not have the most sophisticated lighting set up, the lighting was mostly effective as the technician had a decent interpretation of each artist and created the right environment with the lighting stages for each act.

The opening act was the comedy/juggling stylings of Mr Wizowski. We were impressed with not only his juggling talent but also his ability to make us laugh without saying a word – an expressive face can go a long way.  As an MC, he occasionally came across as unprepared and unrehearsed; his repeated mispronunciation of several performers names was especially off-putting as knowing the performers is fundamental to an MCs role in this type of show. His comedic banter was generally amusing, and although at times it fell a little flat with the audience, once his routine is a little more fine-tuned he will be well suited to being an MC.

Highlights of the evening were:
Tessa Dillon; a singer/songwriter who has a voice with all the haunting qualities and a similar mood to Tanita Tikaram, it gave me goosebumps.  Her songwriting is deep and soulful, and she effortlessly drew the audience into a beautiful, tranquil place; it is hard to believe she is only 21.

Miss Candy Applebottom; both a surprise and a delight. We had never seen anything quite like it.  The combination of looping, cross-dressing and burlesque delivered via a statuesque man in a short dress with a heavy metal beard and dreadlocks was amazing, different and sexy all at the same time. He had the audience on his side right from the beginning due to the absolute confidence and skill with which the set was delivered.

The final stand out was the penultimate act Michael Howard, whose sexy comedic poetry was an incredibly professional and polished routine. He had a craftful command of rhyme and rhythm alongside some excellent comedic timing. There were laughs and surprises aplenty. His material is a unique take on modern dating and societal conventions of what is sexy (or not).

The rest of the artists provided a range of comedy, sex and creativity.  These were (in no particular order):
Julz Burgisser, who with her witty outlook on her 30 something single/divorcee life, made us laugh at the trials and tribulations of being a singleton in Wellington.
Mary dazzled us with her ability to dance with physics whilst artfully spinning multiple hula hoops. There would have been countless hours, months maybe years that went into such a beautiful routine. The gravity-defying choreography mystified the audience and we were all left thoroughly impressed.
Claire Voyant bewitched us with her superstar presence and a beautiful use of motion in her cabaret.
Trillian, who as an internationally recognised burlesque artist, gave us a short, well choreographed and enticing show.
Tamara and Sharon took their love of opera to a risky place by playing a fantastic interpretation of the Queens of the Stone Age song The Sky Is Fallin’ which (as a massive QOTSA fan) I was surprised to enjoy.
Cheflyn Baxter who may not yet have developed the finesse of a modern magician, but his card trick left the entire audience mystified; this included one audience member calling him a witch.

Although the line up changes each month I would not hesitate to recommend TheMenagerie as a show with something for everyone. It’s a nice diversion from the usual mix of comedy and music that happens in Wellington. September’s lineup looks excellent:

The Menagerie
8pm, 27 August 2016 @ Fringe Bar

*This review was written with Oliver Probert and originally published at