Art, according to some, is always meant to reflect humanity, meant to deepen the audience’s understanding of how humanity operates. Blanc de Blanc, the London Hippodrome’s new nighttime spectacle from Scott Maidment’s Strut & Fret Production House, disguises social commentary amongst a mix of circus acts and burlesque. Whatever the symbolism present in J’aiMime pulling herself from a massive balloon like a baby from an embryonic sack is, it isn’t the priority of the night as this talented cast of performers use their skills to create a good time.
Inspired by champagne and the bubbly feeling it can create, the show is spread over two halves, getting more and more debauched. It’s a show that continually surprises with the troop delighting in taking it one step to far. At one point, Emma Maye Gibson tricks the audience into an innocent sing-a-long before unexpectedly pulling an instrument out of an orifice. Blanc de Blanc goes out of its way to annoy the sensibilities of Daily Mail readers and that is a good thing.
The show is high on sex, pointing out and mocking society’s prudish relationship with it. Blanc de Blanc celebrates the human body and isn’t afraid of some full frontal nudity, thankfully both male and female. Following burlesque tradition, the performers tease the audience and whilst this appears in the traditional form — corsets and nipple tassels — it also paints this type of titillation as ridiculous with the three clowns, Gibson, J’aiMime and Spencer Novich, humorously teasing everyone before showing the goods and having Novich climb over the audience stark naked.
Audience participation plays a major role in Blanc de Blanc and the London Hippodrome’s tight space makes this night of debauchery intimate. The cast interacts with the audience well, firing off innuendoes and improvising to the audience reaction. Only once do these interactions flop, with the five minutes of allotted “selfie time” feeling convoluted. The improvisations are most obvious between the set pieces as Monsieur Roméo and Novich form a double act to move the show along. At first, their interaction seems forced but as the show progresses they hit a satisfactory rhythm and climax nicely. Roméo’s obnoxious pout dampens his efforts to be cool as he just comes across as the typical beefcake arsehole. Only when his tuxedo is ripped off to reveal his super tight pants does the message click: he, and the show, are laughing at him, not with him. Every performer may be hot, but the show celebrates every body shape.
However, the idea to structure the show as a series of set pieces without overarching narrative damages the entertainment factor as one or two set pieces overstay their welcome. Hampus Jansson and Milena Straczynski’s aerial sex performance uses a narrative as it plots a relationship and leans on the romantic side of desire. It is a feat of jaw-dropping strength and athleticism that pushes the boundaries of acrobatics in small spaces.
Like a good bottle of champagne, the show plays with your senses. The more you drink everything in, the more fun you have. As bubbles big and small cascade down, the euphoria is heightened and the good kind of giddiness sets in. Sex and alcohol don’t always go well, but Blanc de Blanc gets it just right.
Blanc de Blanc runs at the London Hippodrome until the 28th August.