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  • Liane Morris

LIMBO - The Return | Tantalising Tightrope Between Heaven and Hell in Circus Spectacular


Every year, sometimes twice a year, Strut & Fret dance into Newcastle with their spectacular Spiegeltent, injecting our city with their signature sexy style, extraordinarily talented performers, and sparkling mayhem. And we can’t get enough of them.


With so many Novocastrian fans, the team is very excited to be bringing their latest show to the city for the first time. According to Scott Maidment, Director and Producer of Strut & Fret, Limbo—The Return is part of a long-running trilogy of shows that audiences in Newcastle have never seen unless they’ve travelled to see it in Sydney or Adelaide. “It began in 2013 with the original show Limbo,” said Scott.

“We toured it to London, where it stayed next to London’s Eye for six months and then returned again the very next year. Up until the pandemic, it had toured 19 countries.

“The second part of the trilogy was Limbo Unhinged, which we presented at the Sydney Opera House in 2018 and toured to Munich in November of last year. Since then, we reimagined it with half of the original Limbo cast and created Limbo The Return, which made its international debut at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and then immediately headed directly to Newcastle.

“This show presents a whole new world that people here haven’t seen yet. It’s such a big, live spectacle with extraordinary live music, and we’re just excited to let it loose on Newcastle audiences!”

If you've been left spellbound by previous Strut & Fret performances staged, as always, within The Spiegeltent, such as the acclaimed Blanc de Blanc, the outrageously entertaining The Party, or you were lucky enough to see the award-winning and original Limbo, you're in for a treat featuring an international cast of circus luminaries. Combining a fresh and intoxicating mix of cabaret, circus, acrobatics and ecstatic heart-pounding live music, Limbo – The Return will transport audiences to a realm where the line between heaven and hell blurs – resulting in an otherworldly party experience like no other!

“Audiences will be whisked away to a sinister netherworld of gut-churning contortion, breath-taking acrobatics, and jaw-dropping stunts,” said Scott. “This is a high-powered extravaganza that leaves you gasping for breath, dancing in the aisles, and even shedding a tear!”

The cast brings together a host of wildly hypnotic, world-renowned circus performers and prolific musicians, many of whom have been playing together for over ten years, led by composer and New York’s Jank maestro Sxip Shirey.

Sydney musician Mick Stuart joins the live ensemble with irreverent electro-acoustic noise and playfully sexy beats. Joining Mick and Sxip is Grant Arthur, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, producer, and circus performer known for his versatility from Dixieland trombone and hard-driving bluegrass banjo to funky New Orleans sousaphone and country folk. Sxip’s haunting, ethereal melodies are delivered via an eclectic collection of rare instruments, including Ukrainian jaw harps, siren whistles, megaphones, industrial flute and a glass harmonica. In fact, over 50 different instruments are played on stage.



“I’ve worked with Sxip for 20 years,” said Scott.

“He lives in New York City, but he’s a creator and composer who travels the world, and his music forms the backbone of this show. At one stage, he even plays a jelly mould!”

Sxip is a sound artist, producer and sonic pioneer who crafts evocative music spanning opera, theatre, film, dance, and circus. His work often features modified and reimagined electroacoustic and electronic instruments, including prepared guitars, bullhorn harmonicas, modified MiniMoog and glass bowls with marbles through electronics. Collaborating closely with his wife and creative partner, Coco Karol, Sxip has orchestrated large-scale immersive choral events at iconic venues such as the Sydney Opera House, Rockefeller Center, and NYU Abu Dhabi. As the composer for Limbo, Limbo Unhinged and now Limbo – The Return, Sxip showcases the boundless possibilities within the realm of sound.

“Before I die, I want to redefine circus music,” said Sxip.

“Circus music is representational. It represents beauty, sexy, funny - but it isn’t actually visceral, and I’ve set about changing

that. My music is experimental, funky, folky, classical – it’s music that connects people.


“There’s an iconic piece of music—a melody played at the beginning and end of Limbo—an earworm that has become so famous that people sing it back to me. I love pushing boundaries and creating adventurous, strange music, but I also love writing pretty songs. Because I use modified instruments, the sound that’s created can be totally unique. There is no other moment on the planet like it. I love that moment, the secret surprise that is utterly beautiful.”

For those who may have seen the previous Limbo productions, Sxip is quick to assure audiences that the soundtrack has changed with new instrumentation and more electronic music.

“My in-laws bought me a MiniMoog, an analogue synthesiser from the 1970s. It was the first accessible synthesiser and has no pre-sets. It has an amazing sound that we use in clever ways. I want people to walk away from our shows wanting to buy the album.”


Joining Sxip on stage is an amazing posse of world-renowned circus performers from all over the globe, including Bulgaria’s stunning Maria Monchevae. Previously a ballet and contemporary dancer in Austria at the Viennese

Conservatory, she expanded her training to include aerial circus skills. She’s been performing in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in Germany.

To keep everyone laughing is the French gravity-defying Chinese pole master, beatboxer and clown Mikael Bres, who has been performing with Cirque Du Soleil and La Clique. Our very own acrobatic dancing sensation, Hilton Denis, was born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand, and has lived in Sydney for the past ten years. Hilton has performed in concerts for Janet Jackson, Salt-N-Pepa, David Guetta and Flo Rider, and his theatre credits include Show Boat, Oliver! and the Australian tour of West Side Story.

The talented crew would not be complete without the daredevil Spanish acrobat and slackrope virtuoso David Marco, who is also an occasional stuntman and appeared in Game of Thrones, or Ben Loader from London, who studied at The National Centre of Circus Arts, specialising in aerial rope. The fire-breathing vocalist and Sydney local Clara Fable will leave you tickled pink and tantalised with her charismatic stage presence and cheeky demeanour. Musician turned burlesque performer turned sideshow freak - this showgirl loves attention and isn’t afraid to make sure you know it. Whether singing into the rafters or hanging from them, she’s bound to leave you wanting more.


Clara’s story, from hairdresser to firebreathing singing sensation, is inspirational. “I hated school,” said Clara.

“I left in year ten and became a qualified senior hair stylist just so I could have a ‘proper’ job, but I was always into singing and dancing. I loved being the centre of attention and wanted to be on the stage.

“One day in 2017, I was cutting someone’s hair, and she told me that her daughter was auditioning for Universal Studios. She suggested that I audition. I did, and I got the job, which entailed moving to Japan. It was the first time that I was paid as a full-time performer. Eventually, I moved to the USA because I wanted to be a pop star, and I was doing really well; I had a lot of gigs and was writing songs for other performers. Then COVID hit, and I returned to Australia.

Back in Australia, Clara found that the ‘vibe’ was very different from what she’d been enjoying in the States. It was while she was working in a bar that she had an unexpected opportunity.

“One night, the resident burlesque performer called in sick. She told me to go on in her place using her costumes. So I did! I really loved it and discovered a new direction within the burlesque community. I toured with Dracula’s from the Gold Coast for three years and met Scott in New Zealand. He asked me if I wanted to tour to Germany with Limbo Unhinged.

“Everyone banded together to teach me what I needed to know. Fire breathing is common in burlesque, and as a vocalist,

my breath control really helps. It’s a very dangerous thing to do and very toxic to your body; you need to be very precise with your technique. Scott and the Strut & Fret team are so collaborative. We’re encouraged to try new things.”



Of course, the other great star of this show is the Spiegeltent itself. No stranger to Civic Park, the one-hundred-year-old Dutch mirror tent with its stained glass, warm timbers, rich velvet and old-world charm reminiscent of European cabaret, draws a team of Novocastrian crew lands in Newcastle. Just like a giant Meccano set, there are unbelievably no tools, no screws, no nails, no bolts and no machinery required.

“There is this wonderful sense of romantic achievement that people feel when they are a part of this traditional process,” said Scott.

“It’s a beautiful heritage piece that people love to work on. It does take a lot of maintenance, though. There is always something being worked on and repaired.”

According to Scott, one of the highlights of this show is the way in which the tent is used.

“More than any other show that we have done, this is the show that takes place in, above and around the audience. The musicians play in the aisles, performers fly overhead, and the audience becomes a part of the show more than any other we’ve done. Quite a lot more. It’s amazing. The set is very different. The stage is high. Our performers are like superheroes. And the lighting design by Phil Gladwell from London is spectacular – very, very beautiful.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to see world-class artists up close and personal. A version of this show has been performed 2,500 times in over 19 countries. It has a real following. People love it, and Newcastle has never seen it! I can’t wait to share it with our audiences here.

“In terms of the meaning behind the show, there’s no one way to view it. Everyone takes something different from it. There’s no real talking in the show. Some people look deeply into the meaning and subtext of the concepts of a limbo between heaven and hell, and others just love the spectacle. There was a reviewer in London who said that on one side of him sat a couple on a date, and on the other sat a 14-year-old girl. The couple thought it was the sexiest thing they’d ever seen, while the young girl thought it was just like Alice in Wonderland. That pretty much sums it up, I think – it’s an

experience that is different for everyone.”

Don’t miss your chance to see this new rendition of Limbo, the show so hot, rumour has it that Madonna came twice! It’s a global sensation, a spell-binding circus spectacle, and it’s playing in Newcastle for the first time ever.

Limbo – The Return plays at the Spiegeltent in Civic Park from 3 April to 5 May. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the show runs at 7.30pm. On Fridays, there is an early show at 6.30pm and a late show at 8.30pm. On Saturdays, there is an early show at 5.30pm and a late show at 7.45pm, and on Sundays, the show is only at 5.30pm. Running time is 80 minutes and is recommended for ages 15+, although younger children can attend at their parent’s discretion – keep in mind it is rated M. For more information and tickets, visit



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