Empire is set up in the Spiegeltent – a glorious retro creation worthy of the Skywhale – in Civic Square. A significant crowd had already gathered by 7:00pm, half an hour before the advertised start, the early arrivers sitting at tables and the rest standing around on the faux grass sipping a variety of beverages from the bar. The tone of the evening was set by the announcement “Ladies and gentlemen – the Spiegeltent is now open! First one in gets a free hand job!”
Over the next hour or so the tent filled up, seemingly to capacity, while cast members wandered around interacting with the audience. “While we get our shit together,” said the announcer, “why don’t you go to the bar and get a drink? Remember, the more you drink, the more drunk you get!”
Today’s Crimes has an excellent report on the show itself so I won’t bother repeating it; suffice it to say that it was brilliant, provoking the audience to screams of hilarity, uproarious applause and, particularly during the spellbinding last act, awed, pin-dropping silence. As requested, not a single flash (the camera type, not the other) was seen. The non-camera type was. Don’t go if nudity offends.
I wasn’t surprised to read in the Crimes that some of the performers are escapees from Cirque du Soleil.
A couple of complaints: the Spiegeltent is small and the main seating isn’t tiered, so some of the acts were a little hard to see between the shoulders of the people in the rows ahead (we were in the fifth row). It may be worth paying extra for front-row seats, but avoid that like the plague if you’re afraid of becoming part of the show. One gent, named Matt, became a significant performer last night and, to his everlasting credit, was brilliant.) The seats are just plain uncomfortable. There are tables and chairs set up on a riser around the edge of the tent and these would have been much more comfortable though, of course, farther from the stage.
Empire is definitely not for prudes or children, but everyone else will love it. For me, the guitarist and vocalist alone would have been well worth the money.