Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque
QPAC with Tim Lawson & Simon Painter
QPAC Lyric Theatre
August 1 – 17 2014
Reviewed by Shae Jackson
Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque, directed by Tim Lawson and choreographed by Neil Dorward, is an acrobatic sensation from overseas, featuring twenty-two of the greatest cirque performers on the planet, including former Cirque du Soleil talent: acrobats, aerial artists and contortionists, and without giving too much away, roller skaters! This is a thrilling and intimate circus experience with some saucy ‘after dark’ treats thrown in.
Upon entering the theatre on opening night (the Australian premiere of this production), I notice half of the QPAC audience is seated on the stage, creating a 360-degree view of the smaller custom-built circular main stage. This instantly engages my attention. As house music plays, I spot a DJ above the back curtain in a dimly lit room and my anticipation grows as I gaze around the theatre to see frighteningly high and vast acrobatic equipment.
All of a sudden an emcee (Sal Salvador) pops out of a door centre stage, which I don’t think anyone is ready for. To be honest, I cannot stand emcees; when you’re aware that they are there solely to make you laugh or serve as a set change distraction. Regardless, my expectations started out high and although I’m a little skeptical of live comedy, I caught myself laughing at the little tux wearing Frenchman yelling at us to clap and cheer.
As the show unfolds, act after act comes out in the dark cirque theme, the show being “split” into 3 colour sections – Blanc (White), Rouge (Red) and Noir (Black). Though I find it difficult to link the theme to all performances, I conclude (and can appreciate) that these performers are usually trained exclusively in one discipline. It is common to expect from any “show”, a story, and to expect to make a connection to the characters. In contrast, Le Noir is a theme-park type experience with no purposeful emotional connection to characters, apart from the shock and amazement (and sometimes sheer terror!) at the exceptional skills displayed by the performers.
At some points I find myself metaphorically belting myself into my seat to be ready for the next ride, hoping the “flying” girl in The Aerial Cradle, a stunt never before seen in Australia, doesn’t miss the arms of her partner when flipping in the air, longing for the prowess of the gorgeous long-legged, lingerie clad dancers (and the legs!), and drooling along with others as the Strong Men (Valeri Lyubchev & Yani Kostov) demonstrate their strength. Even ooh-ing and aah-ing, and sometimes cringing, at the flexible Aerial Hoop Acrobat, whom managed to get her legs not only behind her head, but doubling back to her front…and then of course, there are the roller-skaters (Geronimo Garcia from Mexico & Queensland’s Jessica Richie).
The music and sound effects are orchestrated by the enthusiastic DJ stationed above the action during the night and the tracks are contemporary, varying from house, lounge, hip hop to dramatic instrumental ballads. Each track supports the performances in keeping with the dark theme. There is definitely intent to target the more adventurous side of the audience’s imagination and along with the music, the costumes manifest the mysterious side of cirque.
Overall, Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque thoroughly engages the crowd with an array of short and exhilarating acts to keep you on the edge of your seat. But only until August 17th!