Review by Alison Stoddart
In the Sydney Spiegeltent at Moore Park the smoke machine was working overtime before the performance of Rouge was even underway. With an ensemble of six performers, three women and three men, Rouge is a riotous mix of cabaret, comedy, acrobatics and aerial balancing acts. A full house with an older crowd leaning into the LGBQT nonbinary atmosphere, the opening, cheerleading influenced, act was high energy to warm up the crowd and introduce the cast to the audience.
The loose narrative seemed to reflect Sydney society back on itself with a nod to traditional male/female binary to start, before flipping it to encompass sexual fluidity in all forms. The gentle and loving interludes between cast members as a backdrop to the amazing feats of strength and agility added a frisson to the show with its acknowledgement of love in all its aspects. Something the audience wholeheartedly appreciated.
What followed was a fusion of performances including precarious chair balancing to scat music, a beautiful rendition of Carmen’s L'amour est un oiseau rebelle while hanging upside down on cascading twin ribbons, skilful tumbling and acrobatics and a nausea inducing giant spinning hoop act that left the audience mightily impressed when the performers surefootedly stepped back onto solid ground.
Inanimate objects brought to life, when done well, can be incredibly funny as shown here with the standing lamp doing a striptease that was both spot on with her movements and an overt display of nudity that was neither gratuitous or vulgar, just plain funny and strangely, adding to the effect of the dancing lampshade as a sentient being.
It was the slighter sex taking centre stage with acts of voice, strength and agility culminating in a display of fortitude by a female cast member holding strong while a (much larger) male cast member climbed onto her shoulders. A definite inference to the current zeitgeist of the female gender achieving whatever they set for themselves, girl power at its finest.
One small drawback to the show was the inclusion of the small but important role of the ringmaster. Someone to break up the activity and provide cover while set changes are made, this role was not as effective as it possibly could be due to a lack of comedic timing, preparation and charisma, an addition which could be rethought or deleted entirely.
The stage is well lit, in fact the lighting is spot on, highlighting the stunning physiques of this gorgeous cast in their dazzling costumes. But the seating could have been better arranged to avoid having to peer around the person in front.
Rouge is a blend of playful sensuality, acrobatic prowess and audience participation. With the bonus of a bar serving drinks throughout to keep things loose, this circus is one that could be the start of a long night.