Cabaret of Curiosities
Be warned: calling this a cabaret is misleading. If you’re expecting an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza of snake charmers, bearded ladies and little people a la Carnivale, this is not the Fringe show you’re looking for.
Rather, it’s a guided tour of Frater XV’s collection of oddities – inanimate, but nonetheless interesting. And bring your own curiosity, because Frater asks the audience to pick the items that most intrigue them before explaining their origin and purpose.
Many of the objects are related to magical or mystical practices, particularly scrying or divination.
I was disappointed that his Hand of Glory had yet to arrive in time for Friday night’s performance, but fascinated by his Goetic medallions and accompanying Lesser Key of Solomon.
More widely recognisable objects included a crystal ball, a Ouija board, Tarot decks, dowsing rods, pendulums, and I Ching hexagrams. Frater does a good job of explaining – and sometimes demonstrating – their use as well as their history. He also delves into some of the science behind the ‘magical’ properties of John Dee’s black mirror and the stage magician’s traditional white-tipped black magic wand.
The well-traveled Frater also told us how an umbrella was used to assassinate Georgi Markov, where to buy a Freemason’s apron in Perth without the secret handshake, and where to find marijuana plants growing wild in Israel.
Each hour-long show only covers about half of the artefacts on display, so every performance should be somewhat different.
Sunday night’s performance, for example, will include a séance attempting to contact the ghosts of Jack the Ripper’s victims – which is presumably why facsimiles of their autopsy photos and the ‘From Hell’ letter were on display alongside Shaolin weapons, absinthe bottles, a Tibetan scroll case, a silver yad, and other miscellany that were never explained.
It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a visit if you have a taste for the weird.