BWW REVIEW: PIGALLE Blends Disco And Parisian Cabaret For An Entertaining Easy Night Out
Wednesday 9 January 2019, 8:30pm, Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent
PIGALLE, the latest circus cabaret creation from director Craig Ilott makes it's Sydney debut in the beautiful Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent for Sydney Festival. Presenting as an amalgam of Ilott's previous works, PIGALLE is part disco part exploration into the dark underworld of artistic expression and transformation.
PIGALLE, staged in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, an old world style mirrored tent based on the Famous Spiegeltent which toured Europe in the early 20th century, takes the audience back to the 1920's and 1930's when the tents served as mobile 'kabaret salon' whilst infusing more contemporary stylings in the performance. Ilott draws heavily from his successful disco circus styled VELVET whilst also having echoes of the darker Smoke and Mirrors, particularly with singer iOTA's styling of white makeup.
PIGALLE refers to the Quartier Pigalle of Paris, an area filled with theatres, sex shops and burlesque shows, most famously the Moulin Rouge. The story is loosely framed around a young man portrayed by Bangarra Dance Theatre's Waangenga Blanco discovering the freedom and expression of the neighborhood's inhabitants and eventually breaking free from the constraints and structure of a normal life that had deadlines, commitments and an implication of needing to satisfy various 'masters' rather than himself. The mysterious tall man with heavy fur and top hat and painted white face (iOTA) and the statuesque chanteuse (Marcia Hines) form the key elements that lure the young dancer in to the world of bare skin and brilliant aerial activities.
Disco, pop and R&B star Marcia Hines, who also featured in VELVET leads the vocals with her bold renditions of recognizable songs, infusing them with emotion and energy and delightfully playing with the rest of the ensemble. Her subtle facial expressions are wonderful in ensuring that it is clear she is enjoying the experience whilst also alluding to the possibility that some parts of the show are improvised. Hines is joined by the fabulously unique iOTA, a master at a dark and mysterious aesthetic which combines with his delicious voice that gives his characters an implication of danger whilst remaining enticing. Singer dancers Chaska Halliday and Zachary Webster round out the vocals for the evening whilst Sonja Schebeck provides live violin accompaniment to supplement the recorded backing music.
PIGALLE is heavily weighted to the disco music and dance there are a number of aerial acts, presented by Yammel Rodriguez and Hugo Desmarais and Burlesque and fire eating numbers presented by Kathryn Louise McLaughlin with the assistance of Sonja Schebeck. Rodriguez's performance with the Aerial Straps is seductive and powerful as the bondage clad performer delivers an intense performance of strength, control and speed, all whilst wearing extra long latex platform boots. Desmarais' Aerial Lyra is breathtaking as he flies out over the heads of the audience and also gets up close and personal with an unsuspecting patron. McLaughlin, who also goes by the stage name of Kitty Bang Bang, first appears as a feline Cruella De Ville as she proceeds to encourage the audience to assist in her denudement with a particularly close encounter for one audience member (warning: don't pick a front row seat if you don't like being interacted with). McLaughlin later ups the ante with adding fire to a burlesque act in an incredibly awe-inspiring manner.
While the storyline is not particularly new, and the format is becoming somewhat standard PIGALLE has strong performances and impressive expressions of physical power and strength. Some minor sound balance issues that hampered the clarity of lyrics on the opening night aside, this is an enjoyable evening of escapist fun that encourages the audience to disconnect from needing to find meaning in theatre and just enjoy the party.
Photos: Prudence Upton