Review from: Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 14th August 2019
When I arrive for Recirquel‘s Paris de Nuit I sheepishly allow myself to be directed to an empty seat on the front row. The stage is a half circle thrust out at us, with light bulbs lining the rim and the 5 large mirrors that make up the back wall of the stage. Black wooden chairs wait in a dim spotlight. There’s a sudden flash and we’re abruptly thrown into the underground night-life of Paris in the 1930’s, as a blur of black lingerie darts across the stage, high heels and chair legs clicking hard against the floor. My seat means I’m right in the midst of it, the performers leaning out towards us and sauntering along the edge of the stage.
We’re guided through our evening by a vocalist, who serves almost as the ring-leader, immediately distinguished by her elaborate sequin get up. She weaves us tales full of lust and betrayal, accompanying some impressive circus acts, including doubles trapeze, ball juggling, flying pole and aerial hoop. The performers take it in turn to present sexy and silly distractions for us during set changes, grabbing their chests and doing hand balancing tricks. And the distractions work; I am so preoccupied with the person next to me being made to seductively eat a sweet out of a performers hand that I am surprised to find that a tightwire has magically appeared on the stage. The act that follows is a culmination of everything that makes this show work. Her smooth sensuality is not faltered for a second, despite performing to an incredibly high skill level. She struts across the tightwire effortlessly in high heels, never forgetting to wink and pout at the audience.
This show is anything but subtle and it uses all of the dramatic expression of contemporary dance. The passion, angst and jealousy is all very over the top but is definitely entertaining.
At times I am not sure where we are and I would have enjoyed a bit more insight into the stories. Snappy changes accompanied by a flash of light hint at the inspiration taken from Hungarian photographer Brassaï, but more reference to the historical context may have helped me invest in the characters more. It is refreshing for this kind of show not to abide by the typical gendered tropes; the clown-like character is a woman and all of the performers are allowed to be both strong and tender, sexy and vulnerable.
Paris de Nuit is raw and unapologetic. It evokes a visceral reaction from the audience, with whoops, whistles and gasps at the slick choreography and masterful acrobatics.