Review: Limbo, Sydney Festival

Limbo's Heather Holliday Photo: Jamie Williams

Limbo’s Heather Holliday Photo: Jamie Williams


It’s no surprise that after a sell-out season at Sydney Festival 2014, Limbo is again likely to sell out on its return this year to the magnificent 1920s themed Aurora Spiegeltent in the Festival Village, Hyde Park.

The lively show with its spectacular acrobatic feats and deeds of derring-do is a definite crowd pleaser.

Limbo is promoted as dirty and dangerous circus cabaret. Dangerous it certainly is and dirty – well, more saucy than dirty. At one point a female performer removes her top and advances towards a contortionist who rips off his t-shirt and throws it at her, thus saving her modesty.

Danik Abishev of Limbo Photo: Jamie Williams

Danik Abishev of Limbo Photo: Jamie Williams

Tap dancing in black and white shoes, bowler hats and canes, hooped crinolines recall the Cotton Club of yesteryear, but this is now. The dance moves would not put Michael Jackson or Usher to shame.

Its stellar Australian and international cast plays hard and fast: there’s Coney Island’s stunning fire-breathing, sword-swallowing vintage beauty Heather Holliday; Europe’s gravity-defying Chinese pole master and beat boxer Mikael Bres; mind-blowing French contortionist Aurelien Oudot; graceful Canadian aerial acrobat Evelyne Allard; Australia’s tap dancing sensation Hilton Denis and astonishing hand balancer Danik Abishev.

As you take your seat a theatrical voice instructs you not to leave it, for the safety of the artists and the audience. As the show progresses you realise this is good advice. This small troupe of artistes will have you literally sitting on the edge of your seat as they eat fire, swallow swords, fly, dance in the air and defy gravity.

They wear the feathers of angels and play with the fire of the devil, literally and fearlessly flying, leaping and dancing. I was afraid to breathe or open my eyes and scared the performers might land in my lap if they slipped or missed a step. It was thrilling.

An astonishing act has five of the troupe strapped onto poles around the stage,  swaying at full pace towards the centre – and each other – one cheekily high-fiving members of the audience as he swings by safely but disturbingly close.

For me the stand out is possibly Danik Abershek who was born into a traditional Russian circus family. His mother and father met in the Moscow Circus School. At the age of two his father began to train him and at the age of four he was already performing.

Abershek graduated from the Moscow Circus School and later came to Australia, where he joined a community circus school in Mullumbimby near Byron Bay.

Heather Holliday enveloped in flames Photo: Prudence Upton

Heather Holliday enveloped in flames Photo: Prudence Upton

But then I could easily fall in love with Mikael Bres, a devastatingly cute master of the Chinese poles who hails from Marseilles. With the grace of a mime artist he walks up a pole from the middle of the stage to the top of the tent, drops a feather, slides down and catches it before it lands.

At times I could not bear to watch. Heather Holliday actually swallows a sword and it isn’t a trick. I saw it with my own eyes. At one point there is so much fire on stage I thought I would gag from the fumes of kerosene.

Music is a dominant force in this production with Sxip Shirey from New York behind the thrilling live score of what he describes as JANK! Constantly surprising, always funky, very sexy and a little bit off-kilter, Shirey describes his sounds as “a New York brass band marching through New Orleans on its way to an all-night party in Berlin. It’s brass, electronics, surprising sounds, hip-hop and club beats”.

Shirey’s experimental sound uses found and re-imagined instruments to offer a truly dynamic experience. Every instrument you can possibly imagine finds its way onto the stage, including guitars, saxophone and piano accordion.

Contributing to the array of musical delights are local performers Grant Arthur on the sousaphone and banjo, and Mick Stuart (Eddie Perfect’s Misanthropology, Keating The Musical) on drums, bass and his unique creation ‘The Polymba’ to deliver ecstatic melodies, irreverent electro-acoustic and playful, sexy beats.

Yes, Limbo has definitely set Sydney on fire again.

Season: 8–25 January

Book Online or 1300 856 876 Ticketmaster

Book Online or 1300 723 038 Sydney Festival


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