Briefs (Assembly Hall, Edinburgh) JohnnyFox August 12, 2016 Cabaret, Circus, Reviews For the avoidance of doubt, this is the late night show ‘Briefs Factory’ present at the Assembly Hall. For the avoidance of further doubt this is the same show Briefs have brought to the UK for the past several years. Their journey from cutting-edge to commercial cliché has been astonishingly rapid since Briefs’ raunchy and edgy origins in 2008 in the back streets of Brisbane: one more season of shrink-wrapped titillation for hen parties without an urgent injection of innovation and they’ll be selling to block-booked coach tours like the Ladyboys of Bangkok. Good drag can sing: poutily inaccurate lip-synching to predictable tracks won’t cut it any more. And why does only one of them speak? ‘Creative director’ Fez Faannana-Shivanna compères but by his own admission has no idea what is the point of his drag outfits or his narrative, evidenced by the fact he says ‘fucking’ thirty times in his first five sentences for want of a sharper script. Later there’s a sentimental spiel about loving each other and sharing creativity in nasty times that could as equally have come from the sleeve notes of an early Yoko Ono album as Angela Eagle’s bid for the Labour leadership. And no, there’s nothing as remotely topical in the show, although there are glancing references to Australia’s immigration policies via the suggestion Shivanna’s shoes are big enough for migrants to travel in. Hen night audiences need instant access to industrial quantities of house Chardonnay so now choosing a venue quite distant from its bar means the performers have to work infinitely harder to lash the audience into X-Factor levels of cheering and screaming. “The more you drink, the more like a woman I look” says Shivanna as she has done every year – and “the more you scream the more these boys will take off”. Perhaps. Two middle-aged women in braids in Row E carried the screaming load alone for last night’s performance with perfect impressions of American train whistles every eight bars of the backing track – and yet the boys still stripped to their pubes. A routine where a trio of drag queens make their ‘dogs’ jump through hoops featured hoods, harnesses and thigh boots – the three cheapest trappings of amateur burlesque. A man in a monkey costume uses a banana provocatively. Post-Priscilla Queen of the Desert, this doesn’t even pass for wit in the Australian Outback. All of which is a crying shame because the athletic circus performers have outstanding skill and deserve packaging in a fresher and funnier format than this bootleg porn tape Cirque du Soleil. Thomas Worrell is a world class aerialist combining grace with immense technical skill and speed, and his work on a ring defies both gravity and innuendo. Louis Biggs‘ agility with a Rubik cube is second only to his innovative routine with a yo-yo which ends up circling his willy-warmer in an act which manages to be both sleazy and delightfully innocent at the same time thanks to his boyish face and comic timing. ‘Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle’ sing the circus troupe in ‘Barnum’. A hundred and fifty years on, P T Barnum’s advice is still valid – but, please: more razzle, more dazzle and less old.