STAGE REVIEW: The Monocle @ Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle (05.02.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Luke Waddington

Welcome to The Monocle, an escape from convention and constraint, a space where anything is possible. Lulu the owner (North East dancer Alyssa Lisle) has everything under control – she’s assured and strong, respected and adored. From the silence of the dust covers slowly being removed to prepare the scene blasts forth the live opening number from powerful singer Becky Musgrove and as all six dancers perform in unison (and yet with their own individual expression of the choreography), the audience are immediately transported back in time.

The glorious soundtrack, set and costume design are heavily influenced by the original 1930s Parisian lesbian cabaret bar of the same name. What these exquisite dancers of Rendez-Vous Dance bring to the party is a fresh contemporary freedom of movement, a perfect blend of physicality and sensuality. It’s what choreographer Mathieu Geffre is known for, described by The Monocle’s bartender Ellis Saul as ‘how emotional integrity is physicalised by Mathieu and Rendez-Vous Dance’. This work is more than dance, more than simply movement – each of these women embody a unique character that shines through their movement, their facial expressions, their exclamations. This is the freedom that The Monocle engenders: the freedom to be one’s true self in a safe space, away from the expectations of the world. We see it in how each visitor to the club symbolically removes her shoes as she enters; we see it in how the heavily disguised celebrity (Eilidh Muir) is coaxed to reveal herself away from prying eyes; we see it in how the newcomer Sofiane (Zara Phillips) unfurls, growing in the confidence to expose her true cheeky self.

And yet the threat is never far away. The outside breaks through in the form of a menacing dark shape (Nicole Nevitt) that moves amongst the dancers and the audience, spreading fear and dread in lieu of joy and freedom. It takes a moment to regain that sense of relaxed abandon, but the dancers find their way back to that nurturing vulnerability and therein lies hope for us all.

Mathieu Geffre offers us a gift here: the opportunity to see for ourselves what it looks like to be truly free in a safe space and to relish the wonderful range of experimentation in his choreography that plays with the human body and human expressiveness with such imagination and courage.

PS: The French 75 Cocktail was glorious too! Rendez-Vous Dance have really thought of it all.

The Monocle is on tour at venues across the region in February, visiting The Forum, Darlington on Thursday 10th, Alnwick Playhouse on Friday 11th, Hartlepool Borough Hall on Saturday 12th, Middlesbrough Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday 16th, Hexham Queen’s Hall on Thursday 17th, The Fire Station in Sunderland on Saturday 19th, The Witham in Barnard Castle on Thursday 24th and Dance City in Newcastle on Saturday 26th.

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