One of the more fascinating inclusions in the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival's line – up, ‘Le Noir’ is a two-hour dance and circus acrobatics spectacular. Divided up into twelve distinct and energetic parts, this slick international tour features twenty-one gifted artists and athletes from around the world.
Billed as The Dark Side of Cirque, ‘Le Noir’ is overseen by a theme with sensual haute couture and dynamic props (designed by Angela Aaron and Aprylle Stuart respectively), simply linked through the colours white, red and black.
Julian Wiggins composed the rich, emotive backing music. (It is not surprising to learn he has also written several major motion picture soundtracks as well)
The production team (headed by Simon Painter, Neil Dorward and Mathieu Laplante) has pushed the State Theatre’s rigid interior to the limit. In doing so, their staging can only be described as breathtaking.
Like New York's Fashion Week meeting Paris Burlesque, a long central catwalk extends from the rear of the stage, ending in a small circular platform. Further perpetuating the electric nightclub atmosphere, 88 café-style chairs and tables have been set up right on stage. These exclusive seats allowed lucky audience members the opportunity to be at one with the performers.
Watching as my plus one for the evening and I did from this vantage point, ‘Le Noir’ truly lives up to its theatre-in-the-round billing. This gives the experience a powerfully immediate, added dimension rarely seen in proscenium-bound shows.
The dozen routines were intense, vibrant and palpably dangerous. Levels of risk escalated with each act, ending in a heart-pounding finale that left the two of us literally on the edge of our seats.
Highlights from White included ‘Duo Silk’, an elegant cloud swing performed by Dasha Shelest & Vadym Pankevych, and Lira, with Elena Gatilova creating pleasing, sky-high poses inside an aerial hoop.
The second part of the show, Red, had a more sexy edge. A pair of expert roller skaters (Jeronimo Ernesto & Jessica Ritchie) tossed off adagio twists and tricks that also left the audience in awe. Later, two strong men, Valeri Tsvetkov & Yani Stoyanov, performed a routine combining both quiet grace and raw physical power.
The final section after intermission, Black, consisted of another six highly original, gravity – defying acts.
Firstly, Alexandre Lane performed inside a 1.5 metre metal ring called the Cyr Wheel. Thanks to the performer’s choreographic precision, Lane was able to manipulate the apparatus and make it almost an extension of his body. Moving with the music, the wheel also lit up in time to the beat. It was quite magical to watch such a supreme talent at work.
Next, Denis Ignatov, dressed in steam punk garb, spun a series of giant tubing shapes with an easy dexterity that would make Luke Skywalker proud.
Later, Gediminas Pavlovicius teased the audience with a routine called the Rolla Bolla. That he was able balance on top of thick metal cylinders, all rocking in different directions, still defies explanation.
Le Noir’s pièce de résistance, the appropriately named Wheel of Death, saw a pair of kamikaze daredevils, Carlos Micais & Angelo Rodriguez, run and jump inside and out of the oversized spinning thrill machine, commanding total attention and respect from the audience.
Holding the show together with his nonsensical language skills and cheeky charm, Salvador Salangsang was the brilliant Master of Ceremonies.
In what can be described as the most comic component of ‘Le Noir’, at one point Salangsang dragged four shy male volunteers out of the crowd for a hilarious bit of on-stage participation. Drawing them completely out of their comfort zones, it was the perfect audience icebreaker.
If you are feeling overwhelmed for choice by this year’s jam – packed MICF program, Le Noir is the perfect entertainment for all ages.