This time around, Scott Maidment and company have been inspired by champagne, glitz and glamour and have produced a fast-paced blend of dancing, singing and sexy bum twerking where hot ladies and gentlemen in revealing outfits shake their strut to commercially acceptable and french inspired music. If you enjoy glitter, lingerie and contained debaucherie, you’ll love Blanc de Blanc; conversely, those looking for a night that is more alternative will find little here that is genuinely thought-provoking.
The show opens with host Monsieur Romeo, very French and very suave, amidst a flurry of pretty dancers doing a perfectly choreographed routine. And it’s all very serious till the comic relief enters: Spencer, Monsieur Romeo’s partner in crime, spends the show stealing the limelight and providing a very necessary sense of self-awareness and irony to the whole evening. His solo moments are without a doubt some of the best and most interesting parts of the show as he performs an entire routine to a collage of seemingly random soundbites, inhabiting each and every second as if his life depended on it and displaying perfect mastery of lip syncing, miming and clowning.
Emma Maye, described by the show as a “showgirl extraordinaire”, gives an engaging performance, playing with audience expectations and introducing a definite edge to the show in the form of a sparkler in the bum. Spencer and Maye’s moments are the only times where it feels like Blanc de Blanc deviates from a very commercial and expected aesthetic, but they do work well.
Added to the mix is dancing, which is upbeat and well executed, and there is circus. The first performance features Russian artist Masha Terentieva, whose aerial piece on a hotel trolley explores shapes and spins as she contorts moodily on her unusual apparatus. Later on, she also provides a refreshingly mean hula hoop routine (hula hoop is almost always performed in a happy manner so it’s nice to see the “angry” version).
Japanese contortionist Shun delivers a fast paced front bending routine and aerialists Hampus and Milena soar through the air in a sling routine that is pleasing to watch, has lovely shapes and lines, but also feels very overdone and expected: it starts in a bubble bath and feels like David O’Mer’s “Bath Boy” routine from La Soiree all over again, but without that act’s humour and without its edge. The soundtrack includes the sound of waves, there is kissing in the water. Is it iconic or is it just cliche?
Overall, Blanc de Blanc is a technically proficient show with experienced performers. But here is the problem: there is very little novel here, and it is so very, very commercial. Choreographer Kevin Maher has worked with Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, costumier James Brown with Australian Idol and Monsieur Romeo with Beyonce and Nelly Furtado. There is nothing wrong with those credentials but when it comes to cabaret, the best shows always feel like they are being fronted by the weirdos.
The Berlin-based American performer Scotty the Blue Bunny makes a joke about where the weirdos at school end up: they end up performing in cabaret. When you think of great London cabaret comperes you think of Lili La Scala, Reuben Kaye, Benjamin Louche and others, all performers who always appear to stand for the marginals, the weirdos, the outcasts. Blanc de Blanc feels like the opposite. Most of it doesn’t ask any questions, it doesn’t stir any interrogations. Apart from a few short moments, it is Briefs without the weird and La Soiree without the wit.
That doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable show. It doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. But it certainly feels very different from other Strut and Fret productions such as the groundbreaking Limbo which added something new, exciting and were a relief from mainstream codified TV entertainment. Blanc de blanc is sexy, it glitters but it doesn’t take many risks and isn’t doing anything notably different.
This Is Cabaret rating: ★★
Tickets for Blanc de Blanc at Hippodrome Casino can be found on the venue website.