After blowing FRINGE WORLD audiences away with the spectacular La Soiree, the man that brought the outlandish vision for the show to life 14 years ago is returning to Perth with a sizzling new production Club Swizzle. Creative Producer Brett Haylock is excited to reveal the new production to Perth audiences along with a cast of outrageous larger than life characters he’s hand-picked from late night bars right across the world. Club Swizzle had its world premiere at Sydney Opera House, and following subsequent seasons in Brisbane and Adelaide, it hits the Ice Cream Factory from January 31 to February 25 before launching itself on the rest of the world. BRAYDEN EDWARDS chatted to Haylock about the unlikely origin of the global juggernaut, why Perth audiences are among the loosest he’s seen and why after visiting Club Swizzle you’ll never look at a kazoo the same way ever again.
So Club Swizzle is a fresh reinvention of the acclaimed show La Soiree which has stolen the show at FRINGE WORLD in previous years. For those that aren’t aware can you shed a little light on how this unique idea of performance came to be?
The idea was born out of running a really wild late night club for artists. In that kind of scene audiences had short attention spans. So short, sharp and powerful acts thrived in that club environment. The show basically captured those elements and migrated them to the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh. It became La Soiree which is now still touring 14 years later with an audience of 8.5 million people that is still growing today.
The story is basically that we went to the biggest art festival in the world in Edinburgh and pitched an idea and it came off, changing our lives forever. More recently, La Soiree had three sell out shows at the Sydney Opera House and it was them that encouraged us to come up with a second show or sister show and that’s where Club Swizzle was born and it premiered there as well. So it’s played at a number of arts festivals so far but this is its last Australian date as we’re about to take it to Europe. We’ll also be making a very exciting announcement about where it’s premiering there soon. It’s very exciting as we feel from here it’s ready to take on the world.
So for people who have seen La Soiree what’s new and different about Club Swizzle?
Club Swizzle basically took the energy and the spirit of La Soiree; its joyous, celebratory and shameless entertainment but recreated it with a cranking four-piece live band within the setting of a late night bar inhabited by larger than life characters.
Who are these larger than life characters and more interestingly, how did they come to be part of the Club?
Well the host for one is an extraordinary performer Reuben Kaye who had his own show here at FRINGE WORLD last year. He actually witnessed one of our shows early in his career and it motivated him not to go down the path of musical theatre and instead do it his own way and do cabaret. Club Swizzle is a perfect vehicle for him. His star is rising at a phenomenal rate given he’s hosting one of the most famous cabaret venues in the world in London these days. There’s something absolutely magical about the way he commands the room.
It all sounds amazing but really is a lot to take in. Are you able to describe what the experience is like? Say for example I’ve got myself ticket to Club Swizzle and I’ve just arrived at the Ice Cream Factory… what happens next?
Well a place you’ve seen a thousand times before and never looked twice at, will become something you’ve never expected. We’ve inhabited this old iconic warehouse in an incredible location in Northbridge that has been completely transformed into a wild late night club. You enter round the back by lifting up this roller door and there’s something subversive about that whole experience. Once you’re inside you’ve got this fantastic club like environment and then there will be champagne and cocktails available from this timeless bar which transforms to something different entire as the show gets underway. As we say it’s all about no stage, no rules, no regrets. It turns the traditional idea of sitting in the audience in front of a stage on its end. It immerses you in an environment where anything can and will happen.
And what are some of those things that can and will happen?
Well for one the show really blurs the lines between who is bar staff and who is not. There are people there you didn’t expect that are suddenly doing things on stage you didn’t think they were capable of. There are high level acrobatics and everything going on. Our Swizzle boys are the physical backbone of the show and possibly the hardest working performers in Perth this month.
So apart from the Swizzle boys and the host Reuben Kaye who else is part of the experience? I heard you scoured the world for a “family of colourful eccentric characters” to make Club Swizzle what it is. Who are these people and how did you go about finding them?
I’ve been touring now for a number of years and regardless of where we’ve been, from Buenos Aires to Helsinki, one thing remains the same. The most fascinating and colourful characters always naturally migrate to their late night local bars, dive bars even, where its comfortable and familiar to them like a pair of old slippers. That was the starting point for Club Swizzle and where I’ve met most of these characters. I’m fortunate that in my line of work I cross paths with all of the world’s best performers in our travels. We were looking for qualities that go above and beyond just having great skills for this show. We were really after these larger than life personalities that I knew audiences would fall in love or lust with, and leave an indelible mark on them. It really has been a great start and it’s definitely been the case so far.
A great example of these is Dandy Wellington, a great performer who hadn’t really left his home town of New York until joining the show. He’s a Harlem based song and dance man…an effervescent spirit that lights up a room and he’s impeccably dressed from 8am till 2am and has been turning heads wherever he goes in Perth. He’s a dancer and singer and has his own band in New York and he’s over the top in the best possible way. I met him there and he’d never been to Australia before. He does love it here but the Perth summer certainly presents its challenges if you want to look that good all day everyday. You wouldn’t catch a dandy like him in shorts and thongs that’s for sure.
Yammel Rodriguez is another amazing talent we have. She’s a stunning woman and you can see the collective jaws just drop whenever she walks into a room. She is one of the only artists to cross over from La Soiree having come here two years ago, and does spectacular acrobatics over the bar and the audience.
Amy G is an all rounder we just love having as part of the show as well. She does something with a kazoo that people in Perth would have never seen before and will probably never see again. Without giving too much away I can say it’s exceptional muscle control and you’ll never look at kazoo the same way again.
So to sum it all up then, what’s Club Swizzle all about and what will people be missing out on if they don’t check it out?
It’s all about reinventing the idea of the great night out at the theatre. All the rules are broken and you are asked to leave your troubles at the front door and enjoy unadulterated, unabashed escapism removed from everyday life. Anything can and will happen and it’s been wild here already in the shows we’ve done so far. We’ve had members of the audience strip complete naked from the excitement of it all. We’ve got to know the Perth audience over three straight years doing the La Soiree show and we fell in love with Perth and feel it’s fair to say Perth fell in love with us too. The fact that Perth is all about doing its own thing means people completely embrace a show like this and they don’t need a lot of encouragement to be over the top in their response.