Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“Recirquel returns to the Fringe with Paris de Nuit’s stunning circus artists, dancers and musicians bringing to life the decadent yet lovable Paris of the 1930s, filled with desires and beauty.”
We are transported to Paris in the 1930s through the portrayal of the street characters of that era by talented circus artists and dancers. There are acrobats, jugglers, balancing artists, trapeze performers, and aerialists, each one delivering a spell-binding performance. We catch a glimpse of the world of artists Picasso and Modigliani, writer Henry Miller, and singer Josephine Baker, all of whom developed and thrived in that era.
The stage set is all mirrors, allowing the audience to take in every aspect of the astonishing circus feats. The smoky atmosphere and dramatic lighting are effective in transforming a bare stage into the Paris scene, a look inspired by the characteristic world of the famous Hungarian-born French photographer, Brassai. He was a journalist who documented the street characters and high society of Paris through his camera lens. His 1933 book, Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night), included 64 of those photographs. The show works to recreate the atmosphere of the time of street walkers, prostitutes, peddlers, nightclub dancers, and shadowy figures.
Performers are clad in tight black minimal costumes that allow for free movement and create a sexy, burlesque-style look to the show, reminiscent of the show, Cabaret.
This is circus art but framed in a bygone era. It is sultry and suggestive. A woman in high heels deftly walks across a tightrope, holding a fan, culminating in doing the splits on the rope. A man balances a woman on his nose. The stunts are gripping, as performers work without a net or mats. We gasp as a climber on a swinging pole plunges to the stage from the top of the pole with lightening speed. We marvel at the spinning hoop artist. There are breathtaking moments of extraordinary acrobatics.
There are playful elements, too. A juggler manages six balls while competing for attention with a dancer who is trying to upstage him. There are demonstrations of incredible flexibility and strength. Each of the 11 members of the cast contributes a unique skill. The accompanying music is steamy, from the era.
The 1930s were a decadent time in Paris. After the Great War, Parisians wanted activities that would take their minds off the tragedies. Music halls like the Moulin Rouge, Folies Bergère and Eldorado flourished. They competed with the movies for audiences, so created shows that were risqué, complex and lavish. Great singers like Josephine Baker grew in fame in the clubs.
Paris de Nuit effectively pays homage to those times. This show is not circus for kids. It is wisely programmed late at night.