views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Blanc de Blanc
The Hippodrome
16th July 2016


Monsieur Romeo and the ensemble of Blanc de Blanc

Photography © Pamela Raith

Why do Monsieur Roméo and his ensemble drink so much champagne? As Jim Broadbent's Harold Zidler might have said, "'cause they can-can can!" Blanc de Blanc is a glorious extravaganza of hedonism, naked flesh and bubbles. It's more Soho than circus, but there are some impressive aerial and hula hooping feats in the show. Although you might assume the 18+ warning is because Blanc de Blanc is hosted by a casino, it's not. This pure filth from start to finish. Glorious filth, but filth nonetheless.

Towards the start of the show, the ensemble seem to rely more on bare skin and shock value than skill to dazzle, with dance numbers that don't necessarily reveal the full extent of what they can do. Shun Sugimoto for example mixes breakdancing with contortion which is utterly mesmerising, however we don't see this until later. It's a gentle introduction, with director Scott Maidment soon ramping up the pace, skill and raunchiness. Masha Terentieva shows off her acrobatic skills and flexibility, twisting and turning in ways that shouldn't be possible on the ground, let alone suspended in the air from a luggage cart. She rapidly becomes Blanc de Blanc's standout performer, her physical dexterity combining with the most expressive hula hooping act I've ever seen. As well as being incredibly bendy, she's very charismatic.

Not to be outdone, Milena Straczynski and Hampus Jansson also show off some skilled aerial movement plus a bit of a bondage twist (mais, bien sûr). The theme of bubbles runs through the show (the clue being in the champagne-inspired title) with Laura New's main turn in the spotlight a burlesque balloon popping act and J'aiMime literally disappearing into a bubble. Emma Maye Gibson has the most risqué act, best described as burlesque combined with clowning - there's very little she won't do to elicit a reaction. She's certainly a performer who uses everything she has at her disposal, shocking and delighting in equal measure.

Our sexy master of ceremonies, Monsieur Roméo keeps the show on track, interrupted frequently by Spencer Novich, who is our slightly strange underdog and English speaking anchor. This love-hate dynamic is managed well, with plenty of sympathetic noises and chuckles arising at all the right points, with it never feeling like either character has pushed the other too far. Monsieur Roméo has the affected Gallic arrogance of Marcel Lucont combined with the perfectly chiseled body of a Chippendale. Sometimes he narrates the gaps between shows, teaching us how to open a bottle of champagne properly. At others, he just cavorts, becoming part of the background and yet never fading into it.

Philip Gladwell's set is made up of two levels, which seems designed to both allow the performers to shimmy down a staircase in style and to use vibrant lighting to create some stunning silhouettes from the stage balcony. The railing is inspired by the glamour of Art Deco and the decadence of champagne, with bubble-like circles built into a sunrise motif. Cleverly, this upper level provides the performers with the opportunity to get a bit closer to the audience in the circle. There isn't the same scope for full on personal interaction as there is in the stalls, yet I suspect those up above are more timid and have chosen their seats deliberately. Be warned, this is a show full of audience participation.

Strut & Fret's previous show Cantina was a vaudeville affair exploring the line between pleasure and pain with some memorable fetish inspired acts. There's nowhere that Blanc de Blanc isn't prepared to go, but the focus here is very much on pleasure, with the production inherently more energetic and carefree. Whilst it's far better executed than Barbu (how many times can a semi-naked bearded man drop something, eh?) it doesn't quite have the finesse of Hotel Black Cat. What is does offer though is a much raunchier and more intimate experience. If you want to really taste Blanc de Blanc, book VIP seats, crack open a bottle of champagne (be prepared to share with Monsieur Roméo and his amis) and leave your inhibitions at the door. Debauchery guaranteed.

Blanc de Blanc opened on 14th July and runs until 28th August 2016.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)

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