Friday, 8 May 2015

Le Noir, the Dark Side of Cirque, Canberra Theatre

Acrobatics and erotica have a reasonable amount in common. They're both about showing off the body and what it can do in various ways, and generally benefit when the performers wear skimpy, form-fitting clothing. Le Noir combines elements of both into an intimate cabaret evening that grandly displays 11 separate acts showing off various types of acrobatic manouverings in a framework that plays up some of the erotic potential of these acts.

Divided into three sections, basically distinguishable by the cast's dress-code, "Blanc", "Rouge" and "Noir" (the transition between "Blanc" and "Rouge" is nicely sudden and grand, the transition between "Rouge" and "Noir" is over interval), the show uses a smallish stage in the middle of the Canberra theatre stage, surrounds it with an on-stage audience, and on a level of pure spectacle, it frequently astounds. It is, inevitably, still a variety show, so some acts are stronger than others (and some fit the theme better than others - in particular, the duo acts show various types of couplings entertainingly - the Trapeze, perhaps, plays this best by giving the coupling a teasing push-me-pull-you attitude - and there is something slightly problematic in that, in order to achieve the various acrobatic poses, performers inevitably wind up having to stomp on one another's crotches occasionally). The pairs are nearly all boy-girl, making this a fairly hetro-normative evening (the only pair that isn't boy-girl is the act-one-closer "strong-men" piece, which plays more as two men showing off their form for the audience than anything with a romantic-angle between the two performers).

A couple of the solo acts aren't really particularly eroticised - however the Cyr Wheel and Shape Spinning sections have performers showing pure joy at the delights of showing off what they can do with a simple piece of equipment, and the Rolla-bolla lets the performer adopt the persona of a muscular mechanic himbo being teased by the supporting dancers into performing more and more dangerous stunts to impress them.

The MC's sections, entirely in french, have very little to do with erotica at all and a lot to do with exploiting audience participation and breaking up the evening, which they do pretty effectively in a lightly fun way.

Lighting and sound are occasionally a little overwhelming (lights enjoying blinding the audience with lights in the eyes every so often, and sound amped up pretty loud, with an onstage DJ giving it full doof-doof quality), I also don't know how the fairly intimate performances look from up in the fairly distant seats of the back of the canberra theatre (I was seated relatively close up) and worry that the venue may be a little large for what is, ultimately, acrobatic cabaret.

I don't want to be too hard on this, it is frequently a very entertaining, stylish evening, with acrobatic performers doing spectacular things with precision, and with a nice overlay of production value. If it doesn't re-invent the form, it isn't necessarily trying to. I think there is room to expand, though, with a bit more thematic coherence and, perhaps, a wider range of erotic potential than is currently on display.

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