Tandanya Theatre has hosted some spectacular physical theatre acts this Fringe season, and Joshua Phillips' The Man in the Mail is another great circus show to catch at the Indigenous Centre. A one-man tribute to the swashbuckling adventures of Jules Verne and his ilk, the show actually opens with a brief screening from Georges Méliès' pioneering fantasy A Trip to the Moon – a charming production note that elegantly set the tone for the show.
This entire show fits inside of a box, as the acrobat mails himself and his props around the world, like Around the World in Eighty Days for poor people. With the routines accompanied by lively swing music, Phillips intersperses these with his colourful yarns of performing the tricks in exotic locales.
The stories are entertaining, but largely episodic and desperately wanting for a plot thread to tie together the excellent premise of a circus performer traveling the world in an elaborate crate. An ingenious bit of production work, the crate really does provide everything needed for the show (with even a screwdriver holder for a bit of quick assembly) and the impact is that the show feels very genuine. A performer who travels with his props knows them very well, and Phillips put together sets from this humble collection that not only demonstrated his confidence, but his ingenuity in prop use.
The Man in the Mail is both literally and figuratively a very contained show. With a flawless performance, a thumping good tale and god-tier prop design, this is less a highly entertaining circus act than a heaps good page-turner.