Blanc de Blanc Encore

Blanc de Blanc Encore
By Strut and Fret. Brisbane Festival. Twilight Electric Spiegeltent, Hamilton. 27 July to 18 September 2022.

Pop the champagne and indulge in a fun-filled evening of entertainment in one of the first offerings in this year’s Brisbane Festival. But first, a word of warning: for audiences enticed by the fabulous Spiegeltent venue with its family-friendly atmosphere, Blanc de Blanc Encore is not a family show: there is some nudity and risqué humour from the get-go. Second word of warning: despite the show’s glitzy billboards and promise of high-class ‘vintage French flair’, the show is not the Moulin Rouge. Conceived and directed by Scott Maidment, the cabaret-comedy-burlesque Blanc de Blanc Encore has been seen on stages since 2019, and since Blanc de Blanc is generally a crisp type of champagne, I think it’s time for the show to introduce some fresh fizz.

The real effervescence of this show is provided by the talented acrobatic and aerial performers, dancers and singers – the 2022 touring cast of Antipodean and international stars includes Skylar Benton, Charles-Éric Bouchard, Spencer Craig, Joe DeSoto, Melanie Hawkins, Rechelle Mansour, Emile Mathieu, Emma Phillips and Caitlin Tomson-Moylan – with glitzy cabaret sets, lighting and effects by Philip Gladwell, with fab costumes by James Browne, choreography by Kevin Maher, and musical composition by Steve Toulmin. A promising opening magic act and song and dance did start the show on the right note. And there was a great mash-up of all the songs that have featured ‘champagne’ in the lyrics that is crying out to be given more stage time.

I enjoyed the personas and performances by Joe DeSoto and Emile Mathieu, as our inimitable MCs. Their opening act has shades of Jean Paul Gautier’s and Antoine De Caunes’ Eurotrash, but unfortunately for them, the material is less Birkin/Bardot and more Benny Hill – and some of the gags are more double-up than double entendre. Despite comedy consultancy by Spencer Novich and additional material by Laura New, this encore Blanc de Blanc material feels a bit flat.

However, that does not apply to the brilliant cast – some of whom perform while swinging in mid-air over the top of the audience. The unique aerial work and dance, achieved by some very talented performers, is something you won’t see anywhere else. And I would have preferred Joe and Emile spend more of their time introducing these stars to us and creating some sort of atmosphere. There is certainly a wide audience for this type of show and some very talented performers to showcase. But as it stands, it’s way too rude for the very youngsters and oldies, who would love a cheeky toned-down version, but the ‘adults-only’ aspect is hardly cutting-edge (and Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ will never be the same again!)

What this Spiegeltent extravaganza needs is an MC of the calibre of Reuben Kaye who would take the show to another level and really add some bite! Mind you, everything looks better with a glass or two of champagne!

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Beth Keehn

Photographer: Prudence Upton

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