Lyric Theatre, March 20
Le Noir is billed as “the dark side of cirque”. It certainly goes all out with its sexy costuming and lascivious posing by the cast between routines but essentially it offers a fairly traditional series of breath-taking, top-notch circus acts.
Produced by Tim Lawson and Simon Painter, and directed and choreographed by Neil Dorward, Le Noir doesn’t bother with a quasi-narrative theme or a spectacular set like Cirque du Soleil nor does it have the whacky humour of La Soirée. (The clown/Emcee Salvador Salangsang disappearing inside a balloon is the closest it gets, and the funniest of his routines). Instead it puts the focus on some seriously talented performers doing extraordinary things to pulsing music and dramatic lighting.
The Lyric Theatre has been reconfigured somewhat so that a couple of the most risky acts – the Wheel of Death and an amazing duo trapeze with a twist, in which a man replaces the trapeze bar – are performed at the front of the stalls. And if you want to get really close you can sit on stage at little tables or in seating banks that surround the action.
The show unfolds in colour-coded sections with white, red and then black costuming (designed by Angela Aaron). It begins gently with beautiful, graceful aerial hoop (Elena Gatilova), hand balance (Anna Ostepenko) and duo silk (Dasha Shelest and Vadym Pankevych) routines.
Things rev up in the red section with breakneck, spinning roller-skating (Queenslander Jessica Ritchie and Jeronimo Ernesto) and a strongman act by two hunky musclemen (Valeri Tsvetkov and Yani Stoyanov), who were impressive, even though their most difficult balance eluded them at the performance I saw.
The most dangerous acts happen in the final black section including the trapeze (Marie-Christine Fournier and Louis-David Simoneau), which closes the first act, the Rolla Bolla (Gediminas Pavlovicius) and the daredevil Wheel of Death.
If my memory serves me right, the massive, spinning Wheel of Death structure with two large hoops at either end, in which and – even more terrifyingly on which – the two men (Carlos Macias and Angelo Rodriguez) perform isn’t as large as the one we saw in Le Grand Cirque – Adrenaline in 2011. No matter. It makes for a show-stopping finale, which you watch with your heart in your mouth.
It does feel as if there is one acrobatic duo too many, when something very different would add more variety. But that’s a minor quibble in a highly entertaining show that frequently has you on the edge of your seat.
Le Noir plays at the Lyric Theatre until April 4. Bookings: Ticketmaster
A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on March 22