Le Noir: the dark side of cirque

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the circus I don’t immediately think of g-strings, suspender belts and feathers. Call me old fashioned, but that sounds more like a bordello than a circus.

Until last night, the only dark side of the circus I’d ever considered was the one that involved shady gypsies selling children, and that’s only because I still carry from my youth the mental scars of the child catcher scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Notwithstanding Disney’s attempts to scare the shit out of me, the circus was somewhere I always thought of as exciting and magical as a little girl – the one place where reality could be suspended completely. Acrobats really could fly, strongmen really could lift huge weights, fifty chubby clowns really could pack themselves into a tiny little car. Now that I’m a grown up I realise much of the magic was a trick of the mind, but the circus remains a highly enchanting idea anyway.

So when I heard a circus was coming to QPAC’s Lyric Theatre I was dubious. “Um, guys?” I thought to myself. “Where will you fit the big tent?” Turns out it’s not that kind of circus.

Le Noir is billed as the dark side of cirque, but if you’re expecting a perverse and gritty version of Cirque du Soleil you might be disappointed. Le Noir isn’t as big or as spectacular as anything we’ve seen from the French Canadians famous for reinventing circus. But what it lacks in size and spectacle it makes up for in intimacy.

Within the confines of a small stage surrounded by tables of audience members, 20 of the world’s leading circus performers swing, contort, balance, lift and fly through the air – all while clad only in their finest lingerie. Feathers, corsets and suspenders play as much of a role in this circus as the acrobatics and juggling.

There are moments in Le Noir that are genuinely thrilling in an arse-clenching way, though a lot of it we’ve seen before. I took my mother and she loved it (not in a dear little old lady way, I might add. She’s more your sweary, spunky mother). I was a little less enthusiastic, but I’m not sure that was the fault of the show itself.

I suspect Le Noir suffers from over-hyping themselves. I really did expect something more disturbing and ominous. Perhaps if it was billed as the sexy side of circus I’d feel differently, because that’s really what this is – a hybrid of cirque and French cabaret, with slightly more emphasis on the cabaret. The atmosphere could very easily have had me transported to a theatre on Boulevard de Clichy in Pigalle watching the girls of the Moulin Rouge, rather than sitting under the Big Top waiting for the ringmaster to appear.

With that in mind, what Le Noir does it does well, so go and see it. It’s something different for Brisbane and for that alone it ought to be supported. And there’s always the beautifully clad bodies to appreciate…


What: Le Noir
Where: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
When: until 17 August

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