Magic is set to hap­pen in the hall of mir­rors

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK - Madi­son Wil­liams

IT’S called a tent but any­one think­ing of ny­lon and zips is woe­fully wrong.

A Spiegel­tent is a rare Bel­gian struc­ture from the world of early twen­ti­eth cen­tury cabaret and there are very few left any­where.

Built of wood, mir­rors, can­vas, leaded glass and de­tailed in vel­vet and bro­cade, each has its own per­son­al­ity and style.

There are only around 35 orig­i­nals still in ex­is­tence and one of those se­lect few is now pride of place in Port Dou­glas, near the Su­gar Wharf.

The Spiegel­tent, in Dixie Park down near St Mary’s by the Sea, is a gen­uine 1930s Bel­gian work of art that is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of the lav­ish, larg­erthan-life party venues of the Roar­ing Twen­ties.

Spiegel­tents blos­somed in a rar­efied era of peace in the early 1900s.

Iron­i­cally they were a prod­uct of growing af­flu­ence af­ter the first world war but WWII was ul­ti­mately their un­do­ing as many were de­stroyed in war torn Europe.

How­ever, re­cently Spiegel­tents have made a come­back.

With the 21st cen­tury nos­tal­gi­cally turn­ing its eyes back to the eras of art nou­veau, art deco, the Jazz Age and vin­tage fash­ions, all the forms of en­ter­tain­ment that come with these eras such as cabaret, bur­lesque and vaude­ville have been re­vived.

Melissa Head and her part­ner Colin Davis, who run Knock­out Events and are re­spon­si­ble for this year’s Car­ni­vale, bought the Spiegel­tent in Ger­many.

“We trav­elled over to Ger­many to see it on site at a fes­ti­val and then two weeks later we shipped it back to Aus­tra- lia,” said Mr Davis. “There are five Spiegel­tents based in Aus­tralia and of those five only three tour around the coun­try.

“This is an orig­i­nal so a lot of the pan­els are still orig­i­nal.

“The term Spiegel­tent trans­lates to mir­ror tent, ob­vi­ously be­cause of all the mir­rors and the stained glass and or­nate fit­tings.

“Es­sen­tially they’re a tour­ing Euro­pean dance hall.

“It’s painstak­ing to put up and there’s a whole process.”

The Spiegel­tent will be opened to the pub­lic tonight for the Cabaret LIMBO show that fea­tures hand bal­ancers, sword swal­low­ers and hoop­ing sen­sa­tions.

It’s a de­lec­ta­ble mix of cir­cus skills and lav­ish decor to trans­port one back in time.

The two com­ple­ment each other and it’s a show that was lit­er­ally made to be seen in­side the Spiegel­tent.

“This show was ac­tu­ally made for the tent,” said Limbo per­former Danik Abi­shev.

“It’s very un­ex­pected and it will be dif­fer­ent and prob­a­bly some­thing they haven’t seen be­fore, mixed with the live mu­sic so it will be great. ”

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Ea­mon McNelis, Danik Abi­shev, and Mick Stu­art of the Limbo cabaret cast at the Spiegel­tent in Port Dou­glas for Car­ni­vale. Limbo opens tonight.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Un­der­neath the canopy

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