Performance review: FREAKSHOW, Perth Fringe World

Immersive theatre at its fun-filled creepiest.

Back Door Productions’ award-winning FREAKSHOW: An Interactive Murder Mystery thrilled and entertained Perth audiences in the final week of Fringe World. 

Alternating between circus acts and musical numbers, this fourth-wall-breaking mystery was held together by a satisfying sinister overarching narrative. This structure shifted when a murder occurred, after which the audience became actively involved in solving the mystery. 

The ‘freaks’ of this FREAKSHOW – alluring and alliterated – included Katya the clown (Rachel Keys), Sylvie the snake woman (A Line in the Air), Lola Long Legs (Erin Barry), Fabian the fortune teller (Rachael Coltrona), Bernie the bearded lady (Tory Kendrick) and a recalcitrant horned beast (Ethan Churchill).

Corseted ringmaster Mikael (Mark Retzlaff) flexed his flamboyance with a sugar-daddy song-and-dance routine; think Frank-N-Furter energy, with a dash of Elsa Mars. Performers were not confined to the stage – they were in and around the audience, dropping red herrings and leaving clues in every scene. 

Sylvie the snake’s performance was transfixingly reptilian. Bearded Bernie – glamorous in a sequined gown and elbow length gloves – sang magnificently with humorous inflection. A mysterious black box was accompanied by appropriately creepy music, horror-fuelled clowning and the beating of a tightly-knitted heart. 

The convincing performers never broke character, upholding a successful suspension of disbelief en masse. This became especially impressive when the crowd broke into groups and moved around the theatre space to interview suspects, search for clues and attempt to solve the titular crime. 

FREAKSHOW excelled in terms of music, choreography and eye-catching costumes, in addition to its interpretation of interactivity. Every performer brought their own unique flavour to an already heady premise, resulting in an hour of delicious titillation. Although FREAKSHOW was accessible enough to be enjoyed by almost any adult, fans of Rocky Horror Picture Show and/or American Horror Story will have particularly appreciated the atmosphere, energy and execution, pun intended.

Read: Review: Djoondal and Perth Moves, Perth Festival

FREAKSHOW: An Interactive Murder Mystery was campy immersive theatre at its fun-filled creepiest. 

FREAKSHOW: An Interactive Murder Mystery 
Connections Nightclub, WA 
Producers, directors, choreographers: Kier Shoosmith and Rachel Keys
Props and costume designer: Michelle Shoosmith 
Sound tech: Bryan Shoosmith 
Lighting tech: Amy Lees 
Cast: Anna Head, Mark Retzlaff, Tory Kendrick, Rachel Keys, Rachael Coltrona, A Line In The Air, Ethan Churchill, Erin Barry, Kier Shoosmith, Caleb Stevens, Jayda D’agostino, Javier Shoosmith 

FREAKSHOW was performed from 13-18 February 2023 as part of Perth Fringe World.

Nanci Nott is a nerdy creative with particular passions for philosophy and the arts. She has completed a BA in Philosophy, and postgraduate studies in digital and social media. Nanci is currently undertaking an MA in Creative Writing, and is working on a variety of projects ranging from novels to video games. Nanci loves reviewing books, exhibitions, and performances for ArtsHub, and is creative director at Defy Reality Entertainment.