In Arts + Entertainment

Briefs: The All-Male Company Reinventing Burlesque

It's fringe season, and the boys are back.

Boylesque; it is the particular brand of male burlesque, circus, drag and comedy that the boys from Briefs have so masterfully conquered. Ten years into the game, and performing at their seventh consecutive Fringe World festival this year, their signature style of entertainment shows no signs of losing steam.

The Briefs ensemble Photo: John Tsiavis

From warehouses to the world-wide stage, the Briefs production house has come a long way in the last ten years. Initially a party space for friends to showcase their late-night cabaret, circus and drag, the sleek production that we see today still has remnants of those speakeasy vibes from the early days. Co-founder Fez Fa’anana – better known as the outrageously funny MC ‘Shivanna’ on stage – has helped to carefully guide the growth of Briefs, to ensure that the lovable rough and tumble nature of the show was always maintained.

Briefs The Australian All-Male Company Reinventing Burlesque

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

“It was always a safe, glittery party space for fringe dwellers and artists to come and show off in front of each other. From that it kind of evolved into this beast,” said Fa’anana.

“We were really strategic about keeping the spirit, the rough and tumble and the raw nature of briefs, but also allowing it to grow. I think that we have been very responsive to Australian culture, Australian humour and the irreverence of sensibility.”

It is that flippancy towards sensibility and the filter-less humour that the Briefs audience comes back to see, time and time again. But none more so than the eternally loyal Perth audiences. According to Fa’anana it is the one city in the world that sells out as fast as it does.

Briefs: The Australian All-Male Company Reinventing Burlesque

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

“Perth is just as warped as the Briefs boys and I think that is why we get along so well; it is a definite compliment.”

The Briefs experience blurs the lines on what is traditionally perceived as masculine, sexy and taboo. Walking through the theatre doors, you take a step in to another world – a ‘nightclub party in a theatre, all wrapped in a glitter ball’ as Fa’anana describes it.

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

It is a world in which skilled, athletic men wearing nothing more than underwear, heels and feathers is completely orthodox.

“We are very explicit about what the show is. It is a circus, drag, burlesque, comedy show. So, if you are a homophobic, racist, prude then you may find certain things in this show challenging,,” says Fa’anana.

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

“I am not saying don’t come – because I would encourage you to come and celebrate life, start a conversation and come and see what it is all about. But I think we are very clear about what the show looks like inside the theatre.”

Although they serve up some potentially challenging skits and ideas, Fa’anana is quick to emphasise that ‘we always make the shows for everyone; everyone is always invited.’

More than just the comedy, costumes and cheek, Briefs shows are stunning spectacles of talent and strength. Showcasing everything from dance and drag to acrobatics and aerials, the shows shine the spotlight on unique male artists from around Australia and beyond. Their new show ‘Close Encounters’, brings even more fresh, new talent to the Briefs stage.

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

“We’ve got people like Dale Woodbridge Brown, an Aboriginal boy who grew up in Mungindi right on the border of Queensland and New South Wales,” says Fa’anana.

“He went on to baton twirl and do gymnastics as a kid. He is now a beautiful screaming queen and a stunning, stunning acrobat in our show. We are so lucky to have him on board.”

“‘We have also got a contemporary dancer from Adelaide, a performer with a musical theatre background, and we’ve got a performance artist and a brat child from the UK. Everyone comes from a really different background.”

Briefs on stage Photo: Kate Pardey

And then there is Fa’anana himself. With the crew since inception, the talented MC and lip synching ace, grew up in the world of dance. Born to Samoan parents, creativity and the arts were always encouraged and dance was where Fa’anana found his talents lie.

“I am a really bad singer – so dance was what I was forced to do and that really resonated with me. Dance became a part of my upbringing.”

Fez Faanana Photo: John Tsiavis

Having his own creativity and talents fostered from a young age, Fa’anana wants to see the Briefs production house providing others the same opportunities that he was given.

“The purpose of Fringe festivals around the world is to bring out a bit of energy, a bit of rawness and a bit of creativity in a community. To bring out performers that may not necessarily have the chance to do that. One of our biggest missions at Briefs is just to be able to employ as many amazing Australian artists as possible, and have them showcased the way they deserve to be.”

Briefs: Close Encounters is showing at Fringe World Perth from February 7th to 25th. Tickets start from $40.00

Published 29 January, 2018