Biceps, buns and ‘boylesque’ at Briefs: Close Encounters

Naked men. What’s not to like? I’ve seen a few on stages over the years: in ENO’s production of Carmen at the Coliseum, and at the National Theatre’s Frankenstein, where Benedict Cumberbatch writhed around in a state of undress for quite some time in his role as the Creature. (I can confirm that having been mere feet away from the Cumberbatch gooch does rather taint him so.) Perhaps most memorable was the nude literary salon in Shoreditch, where we found our table to be quite literally, uh, eye-level.

Briefs: Close Encounters is a little different. Less high-brow, perhaps, but bloody good fun. There’s a lot of prancing, questionable lip-syncing, baton-twirling and, yes, some impressive aerial acrobatics from some of the lither members of the troupe, all set to some somewhat experimental remixes of iconic club tunes. But you’re not watching for the circus skills, or the raving sound track. You’re watching for the rippling buttocks and the razzmatazz. You’re watching it to see a 7 foot tall bearded drag queen call a middle-aged man in the front row a cunt for using his mobile phone.

There’s a loose narrative which involves space travel and a vague but sweetly sincere message of hope – specifically, hope that the world will stop being so shitty – which was communicated with enough camp to stave off corniness. There was male burlesque – boylesque, the marketing people are calling it – in which the strapping young lads shimmied their shoulders and wriggled their hips as unnervingly well as their female counterparts. There was a chap who swung from a tiny birdcage suspended from the ceiling. And there was one performer with a heartbreaking resemblance to Titanic-era Leonardo DiCaprio who did some juggling, not that anyone was really watching his juggling balls (which was just as well, because he dropped a couple).

There was also a raffle which I did not participate in because I know what’s good for me, and, as I suspected, the lucky winner got called up onto stage. The prize was a lap-dance from the Leonardo lookalike, which made me slightly regret not throwing my lot in, even though I would have felt like a bit of a paedophile (a bit of light online stalking later revealed he was only 21).

The outfit is called Briefs but, really, we saw everything but. Smooth black leather pouches, glittering thongs and various other skimpy skivvies that were testimony to the sheer quantity of tape the troupe must get through every performance. Also a pair of those baggy white things Christian Bale wears in American Psycho, which were worn by a man the spitting image of Tormund from Game of Thrones doing interpretative dance.

That said, the only thing really brief about it was the show itself, which at 75 minutes, wasn’t quite long enough to sate my appetite for gorgeous, barely clothed young whippersnappers. (God, I’m getting to be a right perv in my old age, aren’t I?) Gather together all your mates who’ve ever fancied men and go.

Briefs: Close Encounters runs until 30th September 2017. Tickets from £25.

Photo credit: Kate Pardey.



Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.