Fez Faanana performs in BRIEFS, a "circus-infused variety show for the not-so-faint-hearted" as part of the 2013 Sydney Festival. He spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Fez FaananaDescribe your Sydney Festival BRIEFS show in seven words?
Shiny, Skillful, Sweaty, Suave, Seductive, Stupid and Smart

BRIEFS is such an evocative word, so many connotations – tell me about some that your crew connotes in the current show?
As always the BRIEFS crew connotes a sense of irreverence and ridiculousness. It's all about undoing the seat belts of the audience. We want to shit stir, evoke, entertain and enchant with the skill, humour and honesty of each performer.

Tell me the/a potted/potty history of BRIEFS, the beginning the middle and the end bits?
'Briefs began as a bit of mistake. Like many of us born in September' says Shivannah mc character of BRIEFS as part of his/her opening repartee.

BRIEFS was spawned in the back warehouse space of a bookshop in Brisbane's West End in 2008.

The idea came about after a training session at the Brisbane Powerhouse circus space. While stretching on the stinky training mats, conversation came up about putting on a performance club night. Nothing ground breaking or ingenius, just a simple affordable performance club night that would give performers the chance to try out some new late night cabaret/variety acts that included circus, dance, video, clown, drag and music. It was completely off the radar and stuck together with a bit of gaff and glitter. There were no rules or restrictions. We weren't answering to a brief or a venue or a funding body. It was purely artist driven with no agenda. We had already held a heap of birthday parties for friends that involved performances. We could never afford gifts for the birthday boy or girl so we would put together acts and gift the birthday person with a little cabaret.

We started out in the back of a bookshop in West End Brisbane and we soon realised that people were gagging for this kinda stuff. We moved to a bigger venue and continued to evolve and expand the night. A year later we did a string of club nights as part of Brisbane Festival which lead to a run at Adelaide fringe and few local gigs.

We were offered a chance to develop BRIEFS and present it at the Judith Wright centre. This is where the show made a transition into a new context. The hope was that the show would keep it's rough and tumble spirit while improving the production values.

The rest has been a whirl wind of touring locally, nationally and internationally.

We still giggle at the fact that this show has made it's way from the bowels of Brisbanes underground to touring internationally.

Brisbane/Queensland has a pretty sordid history – and a fair degree of repression – are there any cultural history moments faux pas and collective bloopers that have gone into the making of BRIEFS?
This whole country has a sordid history although Queeensland is quite often labelled the cultural black hole of Australia! I think the kind of work and the kind of artists that are and have been emerging from Brisbane are testament to proving that this notion is not completely true. The Briefs show does not shy away from the fact that Queensland has been a little backward in coming forward, in fact we embrace the notion and use it in the show to dissect the characters and the ideas around identity, cultural relevance, race, gender, vanity, masculinity, political correctness and bloodlines. We have felt chuffed about the way things have been going in Queensland politically until recent times.....thanks mr newman!

Who are some of your influences and how so?
We are definitely inspired by the era of variety shows and the club circuit that was prominent in 60's and 70's here in Australia – Australia was producing world class acts that were mind blowing. Many of those acts to this day can't be touched or compared to. We are also of course inspired by circus both the old and the new world. We are inspired by pop icons like the decadence of Grace Jones, the trashiness of Courtney Love and the boundless talent of Fred Astaire.

Is there an early and vivid personal memory that is formative in the making of the company?
It was all quite unexpected. I think the moment we realised that what we were doing could possibly take off was a pretty amazing memory.

Tell me about the all-male – with a twist – conceit?
The All Male concept seemed to fall into place and was a definite point of difference. We originally had the idea to work around masculinity as a broad theme. Quite often I think the show is thought of as a hens night out to Aussie Thunder....people are pleasantly surprised at the difference!

Give me a snapshot of each the talent, name, skills, strengths weaknesses, star signs and marital status ...?
Mark Winmill aka Captain Kidd – Crowned the 2011 King of Burlesque in Las Vegas. Fierce aerial strip tease extraordinaire and hula hooping tranny maniac.

Davy Sampford aka Davy Gravy – the King of deadpan and the master of manipulation. Davy is the man with the meat tray and the dope moves.

Natano Faanana aka the Token Native – The aerial savage and video artist with some serious traditional Samoan body adornment

The Astonishing Johnny Domino – the resident old world strong man who can rip apart phone books and bend bars with his butt cheeks

Ben Lewis – new comer to BRIEFS but no stranger to the stage. A young iconic Aussie circus performer with the Flying Fruit Flies, NICA, Circus Oz, Tom Tom Crew among many other things under his belt. Check him out in BRIEFS to se what else is under his belt!

BriefsFunniest experience on stage so far?
Having Bob Hawke draw the winning meat tray raffle ticket out of the bucket! BLUE TICKET C69!

Strangest experience so far?
Having Bob Hawke draw the winning meat tray raffle ticket out of the bucket! BLUE TICKET C69!

There is so much banter about the revival of burlesque, vaudeville, clowning and so on in recent times, have these styles ever really gone away? Tell me about these roots, what continues to seize and astound you about these genres?
Burlesque, Vaudeville, Clowning etc have never gone away. I think the recent revival has it's perks and pitfalls. Loads of excuses for mediocrity and loads of kick ass powerful stuff being made. The original pioneers of these forms brought a sense of uniqueness, identity and magic to the stage. Something that we aspire to toy and tamper with. What excites me about these forms is watching how people reinvent or stand out from the rest.

None of these genres is complete without a bunch of fabulous props – tell me about two or three key props you guys use – and how you use them – that lend the show a little touch of magic?
The Briefs show always opens with a group fan dance. We have some new fancy fans and a new routine to kick off the show! Other props include and large stock of fry pans for Johnny Domino to roll up like a news paper and of course the weapons that are used to present the meat tray....a set of tongs and a spatula.

Genderbending, what are your personal fave synonyms for genderbending?
tranny train wreck, man-gina mafia, faafafine fierceness and drag terrorism!

Tongue in cheek, tell me about the image you have in mind now?
Something the BRIEFS audience and the BRIEFS cast can do simultaneously throughout the show

How do you define beauty?
For a performer i think BEAUTY is found when you are not afraid to be ugly on stage.

BRIEFS plays January 13, 15, 17–22 at the Idolize Spiegeltent as part of the 2013 Sydney Festival. Further details»

Image Credits
Top Right – Fez Faanana. Photo – Sean Young
Bottom Right – Cast of Briefs. Photo – Sean Young