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  • Writer's pictureRosie Sharman-Ward


🎭 The Monocle 

📍 The House, University of Plymouth, Drake Circue, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA    

🗓 Wednesday 14th February 2024



Atmospheric and intense as immaculate storytelling combines with sublime, sinuous dance, The Monocle is stunning. Hooked by a charming, unannounced performance in the foyer to lead us into the “club” I find myself entranced as the story commences.

We enter the world of 1930’s Paris. On the boulevard Edgar Quinet a cabaret club is opening its doors for the evening. There seems to be a feeling of uncertainty and wariness in the air which eases slightly as the staff arrive. Lulu the owner affectionately greets bartender Colette and doorperson Violette. As the lights come on, chanteuse Line welcomes us to The Monocle, “where nothing is impossible”. The ambience is hazy, warm and slightly charged as one by one the clientele arrive, each wearing a monocle about their person. Violette allows no one in without one for The Monocle is a very secret club for the Lesbian community, a monocle and white carnation being their signifiers. A sensuous safe space where the women can relax their guard and openly be themselves. Able to dance, drink and explore their sexuality unchallenged.

Artistic Director Mathieu Geffré’s spellbinding choreography allows each dancer to revel in their exquisitely crafted characters. We soon learn whether they are regular patrons or a hesitant newcomer. We see a celebrity shed her heavy disguise, her shield from a judgmental world and become just another beautiful woman out for the evening. The dance ebbs and flows between the protagonists sweeping us along with the story. The women are in turns strong, supportive, sensual and jealous. A dizzying mix of emotions created in rhythmic and powerful movement enhanced by James Keane’s clever original music which echoes the sounds of the 1930s. Sometimes fiery and passionate, sometimes humorous and languorous, they spin from embrace to challenge to laughter. We too relax and enjoy an evening in The Monocle until a shocking reminder of the need for safe spaces from a threat at the door.

Rendezvous Dance’s The Monocle is not just an amazing dance performance. It is also a fascinating piece of social history. The Monocle was such a closely guarded secret that as far as it is possible to know there are only ten photographs of the interior of the club in existence today. A mysterious space for women only. It is believed that Edith Piaf’s mother Line Marsa was a guest artiste and Marlene Dietrich a regular patron. The club survived until the Nazi occupation of Paris in WW2. The whole feel of the show is redolent of this era. The music, set, lighting and costumes carry us back to the heady times between the wars to the extent that even the technology is imperceptible. Audience members sat on the stage are involved in the narrative and even during the interval, the world of The Monocle continues as the delightful chanteuse entertains us with contemporary songs by Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker.

It saddens me greatly that safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community are still needed in these so-called emancipated times. Our society seems to be more divisive today than ever. Mathieu Geffré and Dramaturg/Associate Director Andrew Gardiner have created a fabulous work that informs us of the past and shines a light on today. An impeccable, beautiful show by hugely talented performers that it is a privilege to watch.

Rosie Sharman-Ward

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.

Performers: Lulu the bar owner – Alyssa Lisle, Line the singer – Imogen Banks, Violette the door person – Jemima Colin, Mireille the regular – Natassa Argyopoulou, Colette the bartender – Ruth Howard, Sofiane the newcomer – Zara Phillips, Marcelle the celebrity – Coralie Calfond

Costumes and Set: Helen Herbert & Nate Gibson

Original Lighting Design: Joshie Harriette, Relighter/ Production Manager: Rachel Shipp


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