By Regan Baker
Hallelujah! August is over, and with it – Winter. So for those of us lucky enough to live in the greatest city in Australia, that also means the welcoming of Spring and the Brisbane Festival! From the 5th to the 28th of September, Brisbane City and surrounds are transformed into an arts and entertainment hub with some of the best performances in theatre, cabaret, music and more, taking to dozens of stages and venues across the city. This year, Brisbane Festival is headlined by the debaucherously fun and highly entertaining Blanc De Blanc Encore by Australia’s very own production house, Strut & Fret. With Champagne flowing and wrought with sexuality and adult themes, this strictly 18+ show is not to be missed! So leave the kids with grandma, pull out your vintage whites, tack on a bit of something sparkly and head on over to the Treasury Brisbane Arcadia for a night of truly hedonistic fun.
From the architects of Cantina (2010), Blanc De Blanc (2016) and the Helpmann-award nominated Limbo Unhinged (2017), Strut & Fret Production House have once again left their audiences wanting more with their perfectly infused and French inspired cabaret performance. Directed by Brisbane’s own Scott Maidment, Blanc De Blanc Encore stimulated every emotion possible and enthralled the audience at every twist and turn.
German-born Remi Martin Lenz and Canadian Felix Pouliot donned beautiful French accents as the shows compere’s while inciting roaring laughter throughout the evening. Their chemistry on stage was flirtatious and light-hearted which amplified the sensual nature of their delivery and held the audience’s attention at every gorgeous word they spoke; even if those words were insulting (as Martin points out).
The breathtaking vocals of jazz singer Cristina Gatti broke up the more lude elements of the evening as she filled the Spiegeltent with her voice. Gatti brought a warm romance to the predominantly sexually flamboyant show and nicely tied together the elements of romance and wild passion that were displayed throughout.
Mongolian-born contortionist Ugi Otgonbayar (The Greatest Showman) dazzled the audience with her elastic flexibility and physical strength as she bent and twisted in unbelievable positions around a seated audience member. Coupled with the extreme strength and poise of aerial ring and sway pole performances, Blanc De Blanc Encore showcased a range of incredible talents that were enjoyed by all.
But then of course, there was the crème de la crème that stitched the entire thing together, which was the over the top crude, rude and sometimes nude composition of burlesque cabaret. From performing self-sexual acts in time with Offenbach’s Infernal Gallop, to beatboxing while doing the helicopter or even just straight up implied nudity, the crowd roared with laughter at every gag. If you’ve ever watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race and wondered what tucking looks like beneath the clothes, then this is the show for you! The most risqué routine of all however, was performed by Pouliot and the cast completely starkers, save for plain white towels that just merely covered up their privates. Dancing and writhing around the stage the four cast members exhibited incredible timing to ensure their towels shifted as they did to ensure a full moon did not present itself to the audience.
Suggestive and sexy, lavish and provocative, the burlesque-inspired costuming (or lack thereof) by James Browne had the audience whistling and screaming from the get-go, especially when paired with equally beautiful performers (both male and female). The lighting design by Philip Gladwell paired with the choreography by Kevin Maher enhanced the decadence of the performance and added that little bit of extra Parisian flair.
The only negative of Blanc De Blanc Encore is the venue and the festival that plays host to their performance. The Courier Mail Spiegeltent is far from a suitable venue for an otherwise fantastic show as the 10-inch thick posts, spaced at 3m intervals around the tent prevent the vast majority of the audience in the ‘standard’ seats from getting a proper view. My advice: Splurge the extra few dollars and buy premium tickets, or make sure you get into the ‘standard’ line early enough to avoid being stuck in a less than desirable seat like my partner and I were. The location of the Spiegeltent is also less than ideal, overcrowding easily and when coupled with a delay in start time (the doors opened at 9:40PM for an advertised 9:30PM show) created a restless and edgy crowd.
Venue aside, Blanc De Blanc Encore is shamelessly unadulterated entertainment and a Champagne taste of acrobatics, humour and risqué frivolity. An absolute must-see at this year’s Brisbane Festival.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.