Arts Festival Review: La Vie
Arts Festival Review: La VieReview by Alison Little
Reviewed by Alison Little
Pacific Blue Festival Club, Frank Kitts Park, Wellington
23 February - Sunday, 16 March 2008
Check the website http://www.nzfestival.nzpost.co.nz/festival-club/la-vie for times and bookings
Information about Arts Festival events is generally provided to prospective punters in neat categories: theatre, dance, music and so on. La Vie, by Montreal-based troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main, resists the segmentation. Then again, a catalogue heading of “darkly comic cabaret drama circus musical theatre ballet” would be a little unwieldy, still leave out several key performance elements, and probably only have the one entry. Let's just call it fun.
Enormous fun. La Vie is a great grownup's night out. The performers give their all in high energy performances, and they, like the audience seem to be having a wonderful time.
As the audience take their seats around the small circular stage, the performance is already underway: a brusque doctor-type with a clipboard is taking notes as a disheveled hospital patient emotes restlessly on a couch. The patient is ordered to get to work, and hand out numbered tickets to the audience.
The master of ceremonies arrives and takes control, magnificently sleazy and ostentatiously French. We are all passengers on a special airline, the eponymous La Vie. This is the modern purgatory, a ride to Hell that never quite gets there. We are all, we're told, already dead. We just don't realise it yet. Over the course of the show our host proves himself to be ringmaster, strongman and more, variously interacting with and gently mocking the audience, catching and hurling away flying dancers, and turning a fine fandango in the arms of his own lost love.
He frames the delicious vignettes as the stock and the strange characters tell their stories. There's the certified mental patient and contortionist released by her straitjacket, the sexy but lonely secretary, the wheelchair-bound business man who's been very very bad, the tragically neglected girlfriend who ends up in chains, the suicide, the potter with his weird musical clay. The audience is also provided with an Everyman character to identify with on this strange journey. His initial bafflement is gradually transformed into strength and energetic involvement with the other characters. However, his fate, like ours, is already sealed.
The show makes excellent use of the Pacific Blue Festival Club venue. The combination of central circular stage under the tented roof works to give an intimate feel, while still having the height to allow the aerial performers to shine, twisting in ropes and chains and riding the trapeze.
La Vie is a brilliant burlesque look at death and sex. Get a ticket: definitely a Festival highlight.
Arts Festival Website: La Vie [includes sample video]