Adelaide Fringe Review: Limbo - Paradiso Spiegeltent (25.02.14)


"I can’t stand Limbo."

These were the words from a friend I ran into on my way to see the highly celebrated golden swan of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear such a thing; up until that point I’d only heard rave reviews about what seemed to be the most spectacular performance ever known to man. My expectations were off the chain and I needed someone to take my anticipation down a notch.

I’m equal parts cynical and optimistic (if such a combination exists), so this brief encounter was enough to make me doubt the credibility of everyone who had ever swooned over this show. As I gathered with the masses around the Paradiso Spiegeltent I questioned whether it was just a giant group mentality that drew sold out crowds, night after night. Surely, not every single member of the Adelaide public shared such a similar taste for theatrics; no performance can really be that good. Did people just think they loved it because that was the general consensus? The line appeared to have no end. Where were all the haters at?

We cram on in and the audience receives a safety warning to remain seated at all times, as the magic is going to happen in front, around and above them. Lights go down, the chilling sound of bizarre musical mastermind, Sxip Shirey, envelopes the room and the mysterious world of Limbo comes to life.

It’s an intriguing world, this risqué circus-cabaret blend; set to the somewhat eerie, somewhat exuberant live score that involves everything from beat box effects, harmonica, horns and guitar to kitchen glassware, by musicians well worth their share of the limelight. The set is effectively striking in its simplicity, using creative lighting effects that turn the Spiegeltent into a space of wonder and enchantment. They say it’s 'the greatest party between heaven and hell', and they are sort of right.

This high flying variety hour combines acrobatics, dancing, comedy, contortion, illusion, sword swallowing and flame throwing with the art of seduction and just a tiny hint of burlesque. The men are sexy and the women, even sexier. It is this flirty playfulness that makes Limbo so endearing, taking it as far as possible from the clichéd circus imagery of clowns and elephants and proving that this format can be alluringly adult. While there are definitely some performers who shine bright above the others, the Limbo team collectively creates a near perfect clan of beautiful, strong artists who remind you that the human body is capable of ridiculously wonderful things.

So, was Limbo as incredible as they say? Admittedly, the show was completely spellbinding and deeply entertaining, but I left with no great desire for more; not the way that a truly ground breaking, electrifying performance makes you feel. I blame this on the hype and not the show itself, as the eternal problem with expectations is that they are stupidly impossible to meet.

I think it’s ill-advised to say that if you only see one Fringe show this year, make it Limbo. However, if you are looking for something impressive, that encapsulates the essence of good old fashioned carnival fun reinvented for the modern world, something that doesn’t require much thought and will keep everyone from your teenage son to your grandmother entertained, Limbo certainly won’t let you down.