As you take your seat for Atomic Saloon Show, you are immediately entranced by how the stage basks in brightly coloured lights, and the fact that the whole set looks as though a Texan saloon had been dropped into the middle of a science fiction dystopia. A host of colourful characters fill the stage and leave the audience waiting in anticipation. Some of the performers mingle with the crowd, teasing us with the most tantalising hints about the debauched mayhem that is about to ensue. When it finally gets going, this is sexy circus that knows no limits.
It is an incredible spin on normal circus shows. The dancers, gymnasts and clowns perform in a fraction of the space they would get in a big top. Being so unusually close to the action is itself an experience. Every performer in the show uses this intimacy with the audience to help leave a lasting impression, in their own unique ways. They all offer something different in what is a sensational exhibition of variety. Host Madam Natty Rich is electric, pulling off her own comedy moments well and having the crowd in the palm of her hand. She is supported by everyone from beefcake men to agile, sensual dancers and nuns with… er, special talents.
The opening song from the resident cowboy sets the indulgent tone of the next 70 minutes. What follows is a tirade of bright lights and pounding soundtracks that accompany acts ranging from the technically beautiful to the shocking. When a graceful performer takes the stage, you are lost in the majesty and drama of the moment. With others, you will be whooping and hollering until your lungs dry out. In all cases, nothing but the next breathtaking showpiece seems to matter. Unbridled escapism, Atomic Saloon Show is one of the best nights out at the festival.
A ropy story links everything together, but you don’t watch sensual dancers and flexing pecs for narrative depth. You watch Atomic Saloon Show to be overwhelmed by a distinct and inviting brand of weird. With some eye-catching wardrobe choices (and malfunctions), this is a circus that imagines the apocalypse in as seductive and madcap a way possible. As one character in the show might be thinking, this is a circus of tight leather and loose morals. You better be ready to get it on armageddon style for this raunchy, crazy night of spectacle.