Friday, May 8, 2015


Le Noir - The Dark Side of Cirque.

Director and choreographer Neil Dorward. Composer Julian Wiggins. Costume designer Angela Aaron. Lighting Designer Christopher Boon Casey. Resident Director/Co Manager Mathieu Laplante. Creative Producer Simon Painter. Executive Producer Tim Lawson. Canberra Theatre. Canberra theatre Centre. May 6-10 2015

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Noir – the colour of the night; dark, mysterious, magical, the haven of hidden fears and seductive delights. This is Le Noir. The dark side of Cirque. Before you pass through to the dark side however, there is light : Blanc and colour: Rouge, where the dazzling luminescence of the circus arts mingle with the hot-blooded wonder of astonishing aerial acrobatics and the steely, sinewy might of muscular magnificence and incredible bodily balance. Together Blanc, Rouge and Noir combine to delight the eye, excite the senses and bewitch with the splendour of the spectacle and the spectacular.

 Le Noir’s phenomenal international company of circus artists transform the Canberra Theatre into a wonderland of sheer strength, grace and awe-inspiring prowess. Master of Ceremonies, Salvador Salangsang Jr. entices the audience, some of whom are seated at tables on the stage and others in the large, packed auditorium of the Canberra Theatre, into the unknown. On occasion, he beckons unwitting audience members onto the stage to the hilarious delight of an audience that revels in an innocent victim’s embarrassment or applauds the spirited and skilful participant. It’s all done in the spirit of good fun, and allows members of the company to change their costumes or prepare for the next act.

One after another, the acts amaze and astound, carefully choreographed under Neil Dorward’s direction with style and flair, at times elegant and sumptuous and later in Black, sensual and seductive, bordering on the erotic, though in perfect taste. Many of the acts are familiar to aficionados of the circus arts, such as David Matz’s Cyr Wheel or Anna Ostapenko’s Hand Balance in WHITE, Marie-Christine Fournier and Louis-David Simoneau’s Trapeze in RED or Yulia Lytvnchuk and Valerii Volynet’s Pas de Deux and Gediminas Pavlovicius’s Rolla Bolla on metal cylinders. Familiar, yes, but never like this, never with such precision, iron concentration and breath-taking risk-taking. One gasps in anticipation as Fournier is thrown into the air by Simoneau and in an instant of peril is caught safely in his arms. We hold our breath, frozen in the moment before bursting into rapturous and relieved applause. Le Noir has us completely in its thrall.

Some acts take this show to an entirely different level. Valeri Tsvetkov and Yani Stoyanov’ Strong men balancing act is almost excruciating in its display of physical strength and endurance as one balances on the neck of the other or together they create a spirit level of arms and legs. Denis Ignatov-Radokhov’s shapespinning of metal pyramids and a cube, bathed in a kaleidoscope of colour from Christopher Boon-Casey’s spectacular lighting design is beyond belief as he reaches his spinning finale by balancing the huge cube frame on his forehead. Pavlovicius defies belief as his tower of metal cylinders continues to grow and he completes a full circle upon the precariously balanced cylinders.

Throughout, Julian Wiggins’s composition maintains the tension, the excitement, the surprise and the mystery of Le Noir’s enticing wonderment. Emcee Salangsang exudes a joyful, mischievous enthusiasm and keeps the show moving, adding his own clownish humour with a large red ball routine into which he disappears. It is another mark of the brilliant originality of Le Noir  and not since the magic of Philipe genty or the daring of Cirque de Soleil or the fantasy of Slava’s Snowstorm have I been so captivated by the artistry of Le Noir’s performers.

Only the setting distracted from the complete immersion in the show’s brilliance.  Le Noir has a relatively small company, and the staging suggests a certain intimacy and rapport with the audience. A circus tent or the fabulous Spiegeltent may have been a more suitable venue, but then the Canberra Theatre offers a far larger paying audience to be enthralled by the dazzling, unforgettable experience of Le Noir- The Dark Side of Cirque. Don’t miss it. But leave your young children at home. They could be too easily tempted to run away from home to join the circus.