Promising to be a “circus for adults”, expectations were high for something truly subversive and raunchy, but for a seasoned, fussy reviewer and aficionado of both circus and the ribald, the bar is set extremely high and Rouge did not quite meet it.
However, huge kudos must be paid to the company for opening with both an acknowledgement of country and a subtle recognition of gender diversity. These have been rare this festival and are both needed and appreciated. It is a pity more shows don’t embrace the same, as we are indeed on Aboriginal land and we are also all part of a humanity that includes more than just two genders. Thank you, Rouge.
The first half is standard acrobatic fare, at times a little clunky and lacking flow. The wobbles from acrobat bottoms (this is actually the technical term for the person supporting, you dirty-minded folk) somewhat distracted from the magic of the perfectly balanced women atop them, which is unfortunate.
Other than the choice of music, it is unclear how this constitutes adult content for the first half hour. The fact that audience members were chatting amongst themselves and going to the bar during the show indicates a low level of engagement with this part, and it would be great to see it reworked so we aren’t being slowly cajoled into the decidedly more adult second half. We are adults expecting an adult show. We don’t need to be warmed up and cuddled beforehand. We at least need some foreplay, please.
Instead, it feels much like a switch is flicked at half time – which it is, when we are suddenly “turned on” by a topless dancing lamp, flicking her own switch very literally. Finally, we arrived at the adult content that was promised on the box, so to speak.
The group lampshade number is defiantly and definitely one for the ages. It is frenetic and sassy, gloriously gleeful and was a tonne of fun for the audience at last, as they stomped and clapped in possible relief that we finally had a climax to reach.
The performers are undoubtedly talented, their theatrics energising, and it is a damn fine time to behold for the last 30 minutes. The duo wheel act is notably profound and deafeningly glorious.
The use of opera adds gravitas without actively searching for it and allows for moments of beauty and introspection as the gorgeously enticing red-robed diva takes the stage between feats of physicality. But in the spirit of true circus, she also lends a hand throughout, proving herself no operatic, culture snob. She is very much a part of the troupe, and their love for each other is evident.
Unfortunately, there is a paradoxical distinct lack of chemistry between the performers during the more sexually driven moments, and their desire to display gender and sexual diversity comes off as false and a decided attempt to be provocative. While it is wonderful to embrace our differences, there needs to be authenticity attached to it, and that is what is lacking here. It feels forced.
Perhaps we are spoilt for choice with such extremely high quality, beautifully produced bawdy cirque in Perth, and it takes a lot to impress. Regardless, the show really could do with some editing and reworking. The 70 minute showtime is unnecessary, but there is so much promise here. Enjoy Rouge for what it is – an energetic, rollicking good time.
Photos by David Power and Jodie Hutchinson