THE GREAT ESCAPE
Paul Ransom has always wondered where a contortionist’s bendy spine may take them. He finally gets to ask La Soiree’s Captain Frodo.
Whenever anyone says ‘contortionist’ the first thing that springs to mind is, well, y’know, I mean, do they, would they? Have you? The man on the other end of the line laughs and teasingly responds, “It’s best left to the imagination. I do make a comment about that and do a quick demonstration during my tennis act, so…“
The contortionist in question is Captain Frodo, a Norwegian-born, Melbourne-based blogger, philosopher and bendy showman. As part of the record-busting nu-circ juggernaut that is La Soiree, Frodo has shoved himself through tennis racket heads and travelled the world.
“It is a pretty obscure thing,” he admits of his incredible, double-jointed career. As the child of a professional magician though, a life on the stage was always likely. “I guess every kid thinks their dad can do everything, but my dad kinda could; producing candies at parties and all that sorta stuff,” he recalls. “So yeah, I wanted to be in the show even before I even really knew what that was. I just knew that you went out on stage and stood around for a while. Only later I realised you actually had to do something.”
Encouraged by his father, the young Frodo developed his own magic act based around torn up newspapers. However, before long a developing Houdini obsession led him to contortionism. “I just wanted to do an escape act,” he explains. “Before that I hadn’t been aware of the full range I had with my shoulders and so the first performance I did that was contortion-based was an escape from a straightjacket my dad ordered from America. It was only later I realised that some of that stuff I was doing inside the jacket was actually more exciting than the escape.”
If it all sounds like a vaudevillian throwback, perhaps it is. As Captain Frodo would have it, “I can’t help but see a similarity to the ‘20s, the golden days of circus and the Depression that came afterwards.”
Either way, the astounding success of La Soiree shows no sign of abating. Having already broken Opera House records and had their Melbourne Festival season blow out past six weeks, the burlesque cabaret circus continues to connect with audiences. According to Frodo, it’s because it’s more real. “You don’t have to suspend your disbelief like you do in a theatre. It’s very visceral,” he argues. “Perhaps in hard times people can enjoy the freedom that you see in the show. Y’know, it’s like anything’s possible.”
As an erstwhile philosophy student (and creator of The Illuminated Showman blog), Frodo clearly thinks deeply about being on stage. “Finding myself in an occupation that, when people first hear what you do, they go, ‘But do you have a real job?’ I wanted to demonstrate that what we do is actually as deep or as shallow as you make it.”
Flanked by fellow freaks such as David ‘Bath Boy’ O’Mer, Mario: Queen Of The Circus and lycra diva Le Gateau Chocolat, Frodo is in no doubt about the undiluted power of real entertainment. “With the world becoming more digital, people realise, ‘Ah, that’s how it feels’. Y’know, you sit there, the lights go down and master showmen give you the most polished ten minutes of their life and it’s an experience that happens now.“
WHAT: La Soiree
WHEN & WHERE: Until Thursday 29 November (extended season), Forum
Friday, 2 November 2012
The Great Escape
This is a nice interview with Yours Truly, which also is the first to mention the Illuminated Showman blog by name. Thanks to The Music.