Barzirk. Deep in the belly of Martin Place, a bite sized show that packs the punch of a full-scale circus. We followed the steep staircase snaking its way underground, and found ourselves at the entrance of a hidden bar.
True to its name, the exposed sandstone walls and pillars of Crystal Bar were illuminated by a series of circular diamond-encrusted chandeliers. We could tell immediately an evening of wonder and magic awaited us.
The first thing we noticed was the sound system. Crystal clear quality across every sonic layer. The bass thrummed through us, but we had no trouble conversing over the music. The music itself set the tone beautifully, a dark mix of modernised show tunes, with some klezmer thrown in for good measure.
As we settled into our drinks, the hostess was already moving amongst the crowd, engaging with some of the audience members and building anticipation for the show. A walking, talking cocktail of circus tropes, she varyingly embodied ringleader, clown, and more — while never taking herself too seriously. It was an attitude which seemed to be held by every performer. The feats were impressive, but the performers were having fun.
The intimacy of the venue and proximity of the audience means there’s no room for carelessness, and the performers and producers know this. The show was executed to perfection, with a pedantic eye to detail. The costumes are extravagant, the music is more than just an aural backdrop, and the modernisation of well known circus motifs (strong man, conjoined twins) provides a delightful thread of thematic continuity.
It’s hard to describe the show without spoilers, but expect gymnastics, feats of strength and flexibility, and contortionism. The show was delivered in segments, broken up by reappearances by the hostess. She was a fountain of cynicism, sass, and slapstick, easily switching between comedy and grace, and she does things with balloons you didn’t think was possible. There were also several opportunities to head to the bar and choose another of their cocktails. They have all the classics, or try one of their creations if you dare. (We recommend the Crystal Boudoir).
Circus is best experienced after a good meal and glass of wine. We opted for the package ticket with an Italian feast at the Intermezze Restaurant beforehand. There is a naughty pleasure in the contrast between the refined Italian dining upstairs, and the debaucherous Barzirk hidden below.
An unforgettable experience, perfect for those wanting something a little bit exceptional for their Friday night.
Liv S. is a creature of warm weather and negronis. Her interests include circus shows, trying new things, and triple utterances. Follow her frolics on @callmememphisjones.
Barzirk is on every Friday night. For more information and tickets, check out their website.