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Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque


There’s certainly no Soleil in this latest production from Cirque. The dark side of the moon, perhaps, but if you were expecting nightmarish doom and gloom, you won’t get that either. There’s plenty of colour along with the movement, featuring white morphing into red in the first half, with the scarier and more dangerous acts in the black act after interval. Scratching my head, as usual, to find deep symbolic structural meaning in the colour sequence, I first thought heaven, hell and limbo, but nothing in the acts themselves supported that, and though the program notes suggest that the colours represented the diverse range of our personalities, I couldn’t find that either. So eventually I decided that it was just a chance for designer Angela Aaron to show off progressively skimpier costumes for the showgirls, most of whom had nothing to do but pose and vamp and reveal the thongs that made up the lower half of their risqué corsets and suspenders. Be aware that this is no family-friendly show suitable for little children – here the erotic borders on pornography as the girls flaunt their reveal-all bustiers, and although the elderly gentlemen sitting on stage only metres from the circular performance area were getting quite excited, for serious circus buffs this was more of a distraction than value-adding. But then I’m only a woman, and straight at that…

Most of the performers have had experience with Cirque before, although there are some Australians new to the troupe. In one of the acts that made me glad I was sitting in the stalls rather than on stage, Queenslander Jessica Ritchie spun at breath-taking speed on roller skates with her partner Jeronimo Garcia in a ring only two metres in diameter, seemingly coming close to flying into the audience. There were a number of heart-stopping acts like this, such as the Aerial Cradle, like a flying trapeze without the trapeze, where the man’s arms take the place of the swinging bar, and toss the girl into the air while she somersaults and then returns to grip his wrists. For a brief moment she uses a blindfold, and it’s heart-in-the-mouth time – is she going to miss him and fly straight into the audience?

Much of the action, like the Cyr Wheel, a metal ring 1.5 metres in diameter, which is spun on the floor by a man in an angel suit, has been seen before in every circus you’ve ever been to; and personally I’m over silk rope acts, even when done as well as this as a love duet. Some of the contortionists make your bones ache just by looking at them – Sabrina on the Aerial Hoop is like the Karma Sutra come to life in mid-air – and Christine and Yuri’s Pas de Deux give us a sublime combination of acrobatics and classical ballet. But as the show moves along, the acts get darker and more dangerous, and I began to see the meaning of the progressive changes of colour, which matched the fear and tension in the acts. The Strong Men, in the Rouge section, bring a new dimension to the power of the usual balancing act, because these two guys are built like wharfies, and it’s raw male strength at its best. They must weigh about 130kg each, and when one balances himself upside down by the neck on the neck of the other, you see what the human body is capable of.

By the Noir half of the show, it was seriously scary. The final act, the Wheel of Death, is the ultimate show-stopper, and even the over-the-top son-et-luminiere that backgrounded the other acts was stilled, so that Angelo and Carlos perform their running, jumping and never standing still tricks in complete silence, and the only noises were those of jaws dropping to the floor and gasps of terror. Imagine two human-sized spinning wheels joined by what looks like a car chassis, with the antics of Angelo and Carlos causing them to spin, loop-the-loop and altogether make any of the rides at Dreamworld seem like child’s play. They run forwards and backwards, inside and outside their respective wheels and even, at one point and thankfully very briefly, blindfolded. High above the stage with no safety net, this is the ultimate in dangerous circus stunts.

Every circus needs a clown, and Noir’s Em-Cee (shades of Cabaret – where’s Joel Grey when you really need him?) is a bumbling fool with a fake French accent, as unfunny a clown as I’ve ever seen. He brings hapless and helpless audience members up on stage to mime band instruments unsuccessfully; in a distressing fat suit tries to seduce a woman audience member in a version of Picnic in the Park; and only managed to make me laugh was when he disappeared bodily into a huge balloon, inside which he performed quite eerily, and where I wish he’d stayed.

Since Cirque du Soleil first brought us narrative circus with all the trimmings, simple circus skills are no longer enough, it seems and, like Gypsy-Rose Lee, you’ve gotta have a gimmick. I’m not denigrating the skills of the performers, but some of the acts are not as good as you’ll see in troupes like the Chinese State Circus, and they need the back-up of creative producer Simon Painter’s (remember The Illusionists?) stunning lighting and sound design to lift them out of the ordinary. For some in the audience, i.e. me, the sound was overpowering, and the lighting, inventive as it was, counter-productive in that there were too many glaring white spots shining directly into the faces of the audience, blinding their vision, but subtlety is no longer the name of the game in stage design, and older people just have to get used to it.

Overall, this production was like the curate’s egg, good in patches. The erotic, almost pornographic set pieces didn’t do it for me, I’m afraid, although they did for the young man next to me in the stalls, as was apparent from his raucous laughter and occasional heavy breathing, but there was some truly stunning stuff that displayed the hypnotic, dark and beautiful side of what the best circus can do. Just don’t take your pubescent sons or nephews, or you’ll never be able to control them.

Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque is at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC, until 18 August, before moving to Perth from 28 August to 7 September.

15 responses to “Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque

  1. I saw this show in Dubai so I assume they toned it down a little by wearing skirts and not be too seductive/ pornographic. I loved the costumes the ladies were wearing, the lighting was OK, some of the acts were amazing, others were a waste of time and money as they bored me to death with acts like the Hoola Hoop Girl that I can watch during the Olympics and unfortunately there was a few of those. I understand every show needs fillers but when you pay 110 EUR for a circus you expect those fillers to be better than that. A lot better than that! The clown was actually the most boring one I have ever seen and like Alison said the only time i giggled was when he was in that balloon. The Trapeze act without the Trapeze was amazing. The final act was exciting but they nearly fell off 3 times which showed a lack of focus or practice which had a couple of ladies in the audience screaming. I didn’t know whether I wanted to look at the acrobats or away after the second mistake they made. Finale was so good and bad at once.

  2. Just saw this show. Spectacular acrobatics, but tired, tired gender tropes and not a new take on old school acts anywhere to be seen, except for the truly excellent double trapeze. Men needing a crowd of adoring, fawning showgirls, while women performed alone; men’s buttocks seemingly censored, whilst women’s were endlessly on display: just two examples of the relentless sterotypes on display. Clown was distressingly bad. Cirque Noir tried to be naughty but fell into boring cliches. Save your money and see the Australian troupe Circa or Casus: equal skill and genuinely boundary pushing in ways this show couldn’t even dream of.

  3. I nearly didn’t go to see Cirque Noir on the strength of this review. I did not relish being up close and intimate with a porno circus show. How glad I am that I read a few other reviews and got a different picture. This show was breathtaking and beautiful and clever and amazing. There was nothing more offensive a than a beautifully toned buttock cheek peeking out of a pair of brief undies. NOT Pornographic at all. These are amazingly gorgeous young people in the peak of their fitness and skill level putting ona fabulous show with a dash of sex appeal.

  4. We went to last nights show an it was awesome, was sitting comfortably till the host fat man slash funny guy haha pulled me on stage not once but twice, was nervous but go through ok .

  5. Be prepared to be disappointed if your a big Cirque fan, the stage is quarter of the size so limited entertainment compared to the other shows. The talent is still very good but a lot of fillers and faffing around between acts. The lighting and colours are fantastic and certainly give it an atmospher along with the sexy outfits and moves the girls made. This show has defiantly been marketed to give a big hype for Cirque du Solie when it’s really the little sister.

  6. Way off the mark Alison…an amazing show, thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it – the acts, the music, the colour and the clown! I enjoyed this one more than the other Cirque shows I have seen!

  7. Just saw the show with my family, including two kids aged 8 and 10! We all had a brilliant time! The performers were brilliant and had us all on the edge of our seat. The kids didn’t seem to mind the outfits and both my husband and I had some seriously good eye candy to enjoy!! Show is highly recommended!

  8. Just saw the show tonight and I thoroughly LOVED it!! I found myself laughing at the clown’s antics (along with the majority of the audience) and holding my breath with amazement, awe and tension at the talented, energetic and bewildering acts. I have seen many professional circus shows – including Cirque du Soleil’s shows, and for me, this is one of the best I have seen.

  9. Pfft Alison you seriously need to get out more. You see girls wearing equally as revealing clothes on any given Saturday night. I notice you didn’t mention the equally as partially clad men in any kind of negative light. Biased much? The fact is this show is pitched towards adult audiences and being an adult I had no problem with the amount of skin shown – both male and female. For Alison to have a problem she succeeds in nothing but showing her prudishness. As for the show, it is amazing. The light and music is nothing short of spectacular and the acts were faultless. Stop reading and book your ticket – it’s pretty hard to beat uber attractive guys and girls doing things you didn’t think possible….and with all with an artistic seductive, sultry edge!

  10. As a technician and one who has spent many years in the cinema/theatre industry, I can whole heartedly recommend Le Noir as stunningly grand entertainment. The entire production was of the highest quality, the performers each are masters of their art and no matter what any cranky and wizened reviewer says, this is a show not to be missed.
    It has it all, dazzling light show, ideally suited music ( although some was not of my taste, it fitted PERFECTLY) , and a clown who, in my opinion, did a fantastic job – who cares if an accent is fake – IT’S CIRCUS for fuck sake, and the Fat Suit has the audience and I in stitches.
    Nothing was pornographic in any sense – the Showgirls were NOT just adornments to the acts, they were an integral part of the show and if the reviewer had actually thought about why they were there then she may have realised they were part of the safety regime for the performers but hey, they were young, beautiful, and yes scantily dressed, but show me one Casino show that has Showgirls dressed in onion sacks and I will retract.
    My hat goes off to all involved for a wonderful evening’s entertainment. THIS is what circus and entertainment is all about.


  11. well Alison are you scared of pretty girls with lovely bodies?
    maybe you should go and be with these people for a day then comment on how much goes into a show and practise they make it look so easy
    went to the show and loved it its entertainment

  12. This reads as if this is a Cirque du Soleil show and it’s not. The way they have marketed this show is also infringing on Cirque du Soleil’s brand.

  13. Saw the show tonight and found the whole experience mesmerising and exciting. What talent these young people have and I think your “pornography” comment was way off the mark. Sensual, yes, certainly not pornographic.
    The gentlemen performers would have been appreciated by a vast majority of te female audience as did the ladies for the male audience.

    Great show all round


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