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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: THE MONOCLE @ THE HOUSE

🎭 The Monocle 

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

🗓 Wednesday 14th February 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



SIMPLY STUNNING


After a successful tour of the epic What Songs May Do... last year, Rendez-vous Dance are back with an equally exquisite piece. The Monocle had its first performance at The House in Plymouth this week and it was a privilege to be there and witness this masterpiece.


Artistic Director Mathieu Geffré has once again created a beautiful piece of art that transcends time and communities as he presents the relatively unknown story of Le Monocle, an early 20th century secretly notorious lesbian cabaret which was the ultimate safe space for Parisian women.


An unexpected flashmob in the foyer led us through the doors and into the auditorium as we entered into 1930's Paris. The stage was set with drapes covering the majority of the set, evoking feelings of wonder and intrigue for what was to come.



Our hostess quietly enters the space to muffled music and there is something intoxicating about her as she slowly removes the drapes and reveals the interior of Le Monocle in an almost eerie way. Alyssa Lisle in this role is instantly captivating and her sublime elegance throughout is wondrous.


As the secret world slowly unfolds in front of us, out steps a live singer which was completely unexpected. Imogen Banks performs gloriously and her voice and style fit the era perfectly. Her sultry and sexy tones completely encapsulate the mood of what's happening and her inclusion in the piece is an illustrious creative choice.


As the different patrons arrive we see both confidence and shame until they are inside the safe space. Each person carries a monocle, which was a trend of the era for women to subtly signify their sexuality.


The creativity within the entire production is absolutely spellbinding. We hear glorious jazz music, which can change into a purposefully chaotic soundtrack and back again. One thing Rendez-vous Dance does perfectly is understand the power in silence. There are times when the story and the performance are so strong that there is neither a need or a want for music. Where in fact the silence only enhances what is happening on stage, and this is infinitely compelling.



The choreography itself is absolutely stunning and the dancers execute it with utter precision as they each give breathtaking performances. You can feel their deep connection with the piece as they each individually bring you closer to their stories.


There is lots going on with changes in both tempo and structure throughout, but this never loses the audience. In fact you are swept along in an almost a state of disbelief at the utter beauty of what is being presented to you.


Although set nearly 100 years ago, the narrative of the piece is still so relevent today, with a striking and frightening figure of oppression ready to appear and disrupt at any time, thus highlighting the need the LGBTQI+ community has for these safe spaces.


We are treated to interval entertainment as Banks performs some more well-known songs and displays wonderful vocal control whilst doing so. There is a seamless segue into act 2 which is another testament to just how well this piece has been put together.



In fact, The Monocle is a triumph on every level. The lighting, costuming, direction, and set design all work incredibly well alongside the choreography to deliver an absolutely flawless production which needs to be seen to be believed.


It's genuinely difficult to put my feelings into words because its almost an indescribable emotion I was feeling as I was watching the piece. It is a devastatingly beautiful drama told through dance which just entrances you from the start.


Although the piece was a lot darker than I had expected, there were also some fantastically comedic and whimsical elements too. There was a duel of almost animalistic qualities as two fought for the affections of the bar tender. These moments allowed us to see just how relaxed and safe these women felt here.



Each of the performers were equally sublime and it mattered not who you were watching, they each had a story to tell and were utterly captivating. They were slick and professional and were seamless in their delivery of this historically important story.


At the heart of The Monocle is an incredible story which is told with a complete understanding and empathy. Associate Director Andrew Gardiner absolutely nails the central story here and alongside James Keane's musical direction and Mathieu Geffré's magnetic choreography, unapologetically shares it with the audience.


I find Rendez-vous Dance to be the most exciting dance company around at the moment, and with a passion for creating pieces which celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and give them a voice which is free from censorship, there is no doubt in my mind that with Geffré at the helm there is no limit to how far they can go.



The Monocle is touring until the end of June and it the must-see dance production of the year. Head to www.rendez-vousdance.com to check out all the tour dates and to book tickets. I'll definitely be paying a return visit to the show before the tour ends.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


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.



CAST AND CREATIVES:

Performers: Alyssa Lisle; Coralie Calfond; Jemima Colin; Natassa Argyroupoulou; Ruth Howard; Zara Phillips

Singer: Imogen Banks

Artistic Director / Choreographer: Mathieu Geffré

Associate Director: Andrew Gardiner

Composer / Musical Director: James Keane

Set and Costume Design: Helen Herbert; Nate Gibson

Original Lighting Design: Josh Harriette

Production Manager / Relighter: Rachel Shipp

Hair and Make-Up Stylist: RougedMilk


RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 20 minutes, including interval



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