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Champagne and circuses: Blanc de Blanc

Heather Wallace

There’s a chill in our autumn nights now, but from Thursday the heat will be rising late at night in the Spiegeltent.

I am so excited the Spiegltent is coming back to town and, as always, the line-up is spectacular. Impressarios Strut and Fret have collected an outstanding array of talent – from musicians Dan Sultan, Gawurra and the Black Sorrows, comedians Celia Pacquola, Sam Simmons and Rove McManus, to cabaret circus Blanc de Blanc, Canberra’s nights are dark and full of pleasure.

Photography: Jacinta Oaten

Opening night is the sexy and steamy world of Blanc de Blanc, an art deco themed wonder of acrobatics, dance and music. Bringing to life the golden bursts of bubbles in a champagne flute, I’ve heard it described as the kind of night club Baz Luhrmann would run, but with more velvet.

Photography: Matthew Mason

Performer Jai’Mime, known as the Bombshell in the Bubble, gave me a glimpse of the backstage preparations for this sensual circus, and what it takes to get in and out of a six-foot bubble.

“I go head first into the bubble and I’m trying to be sexy but at the same time it’s so wonderfully silly,” she explains. “There’s actually powder inside the balloon, I can’t get too sweaty because that makes it harder to get out again. As a performer you can’t stay in for more than six minutes because of the Co2 build up. There is a lot of thought and practice that’s gone into creating the act.”

Jai’Mime performs several acts during the show, which means lots of costumes changes. Her favourite is a leotard designer James Brown has draped with strings of pearls and topped with a pearl headdress. It’s slinky and seductive and evokes the Great Gatsby. “I start out so elegant but I’m also the clown of the show so I start out sophisticated and get messier and messier by the end of the night. Kind of like an actual night drinking champagne,” she laughs.

Photography: Jacinta Oaten

That prompts me to ask what’s involved in recreating the show’s vintage glamour. Jai’Mime describes how the female cast members spend the day with their hair in curlers, tucked up under head scarves. “No one would know us by day but by we’re bombshells by night!”

When I ask if she has a favourite act she watches from the sidelines, she lets me in on a secret, the finely-honed scheduling means she’s never had a chance to see the hula hoop act performed by one of her best friends. “I’m dying to see her but she’s on right before me. The whole show is very fast-paced and has so much energy. The audience really picks up on that and it’s so much fun to be part of that atmosphere.”

Photography: Jacinta Oaten

The setting is just as glamorous as the atmosphere, with velvet shrouded walls, painted booths and mirrors to reflect the audience’s gasps back at them. “Spiegeltent is so magical,” Jai’Mime says, “Performing in it was on my bucket list and I’m so lucky I get to do it night after night. It’s naughty, sexy and very funny.”

The essentials
What: Blanc de Blanc
Where: The Spiegeltent at the Canberra Theatre Centre
When: Thursday 26 April to 20 May
How much: $65 for individual tickets to $650 for a booth of eight
More information: The complete Spiegeltent program is available here.

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Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (http://mythsandmisadventures.blogspot.com.au/), is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author