Premiering in 2016 and following shows at the Sydney Opera House, London’s West End, Brisbane Festival and The Garden of Unearthly Delights in Adelaide, Strut & Fret's ‘Blanc de Blanc’ is coming to Fringe World in Perth this January.
Director Scott Maidment, who also conceived the show, took the time to speak to us from Christchurch to discuss what Perth audiences can expect.
“The first part of the show feels like you’re in a Parisian cabaret, very smooth and sophisticated. And [there is] Monsieur Romeo, who speaks to the audience in French; he's been on tour with Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Kylie Minogue and performers such as that so he’s a great dancer as well,” Scott explains.
“And then the clown figure comes in and readdresses the audience and kind of takes them on a bit of a curve-ball ride through the world of 'Blanc', so as part of that, the scenes change from music and dance and what would be a sophisticated French cabaret to something that might resemble an MTV music video clip. So that’s kind of the way that the world transgresses from that smooth sophistication to a great party vibe.
"Each of the performers either adds to the sophistication of it or adds to the crazy party element and some of the performers do both.”
The cast includes people with backgrounds in ballet, comedy improv, hip hop, mime, circus, contortion, clowning, modelling and acrobatics who contribute to the heady mix of cabaret and circus. Scott says he always intended this kind of artistic diversity.
“I guess my role is kind of like a chef who chooses good ingredients and then mixes a great cake. I’ve got performers from all around the world with amazing skills and amazing bodies and I mix it with some great music, and the final ingredient is the audience which makes the evening so special.”
Image © Mark Turner
Scott is quick to point out to new audiences that “it is an adults-only experience but it’s sophisticated humour and sexy in a fun way. One of the things that makes it a cut above is the calibre of the performers; these people are performers at the top of their game. They perform all around the world and coming together for 'Blanc' makes this a special mix of cabaret, and music and circus.”
He further elaborates on what is required of them to put on a show like this, and – what he says – is the Director’s responsibility to his people.
“The performers are being super brave on stage and in order to make them feel at ease we have to create a really safe culture and a safe vibe so that they can push the envelope when they’re performing. So they usually spend a good two or three hours before the show warming up, getting focused, then it’s show time and then it’s a couple of hours warming down. So we really try to cultivate an experience where they can focus their whole day towards that two or so hours of performance.
Image © Nathaniel Mason
“Because of my history of creating shows like this, the performers trust me and we have a good exchange in the way that we create the show and then it becomes theirs. I never ask performers to play a character, they’re not playing a character, they’re just kind of playing a heightened version of their own selves and that’s what’s exciting about it because they own who they are on stage and they can really give the audience a special experience, because there’s no doubt that they’re performing for the audience then and there.
"They’re not pretending the audience isn’t there, there’s no fourth wall up or anything like that. The audience is as much a part of the show as the performers are.”
Scott has certainly made leaps and bounds since his introduction to the industry 25 years ago. He performed with a unicycle in high school, and from there he went on to pay his way through university with street performances. Upon graduation he worked in a Shakespeare company touring around Australia and overseas before he focused on “giving audiences a very visceral experience”. This love of putting on a good show has taken him from those unicycle gigs to his founding of Strut & Fret Production House which presents shows that fuse cabaret and circus in fantastic ways.
Scott acknowledges, “I have zero experience in any working environment other than creating shows… Now we’ve toured shows through 32 different countries, all over the world, and so that’s really been an evolution.”
Image © Nathaniel Mason
A career highlight was working on Madonna's most recent concert tour. A few months ago, he notes with fondness, he was in Marrakesh: “That’s kind of cool going from Australia to creating a show for Madonna’s birthday in the middle of the Moroccan desert.”
When quizzed about returning to Perth with his latest production, the creator mentions, “it’s a new venue in a new location and the audience is so close to the action. It’s not like sitting in a theatre where you’re 30 metres away. The stage is very small, three metres in diameter and it actually turns into a hot tub in the second half of the show. So the audience can see the sweat on the performers, you know there are even times when they might get wet from the water in the show.
"So it really is something you have to experience live and that live element is really amplified during the Perth summer season.”
With a director who values his collaborators and creates shows focused on giving the audience a unique experience, ‘Blanc de Blanc’ promises to be something you can’t miss at Fringe World 2019.