Jackie McMillan
27th Nov 2023

Christine Ibrahim (Cirque Songstress) cuts a magnificent silhouette in a flame red ball gown. Showing operatic training, she sings live with red smoke billowing out behind her on a stage painted in blood red. It’s hard to take your eyes off her as you watch Rouge, especially when she singing upside down, draped in red silks dangling from the top of the Sydney Spiegeltent. Acrobat Lizzie Patterson gives it a good bash though. Patterson exhibits beautiful form and extraordinary balance across a series of death-defying tricks, including walking - seemingly on air from head-to-head to up-stretched palm of the show’s male acrobats. 

Director Elena Kirschbaum knows when to stop. She balances tight, bright feature acts - like Jessie Mckibbin on trapeze, bull-whips and in a lovely duet with Lyndon Johnson on the cyr wheel - with dance-based all-cast production numbers that get the crowd pumping. While I didn’t always adore dancer Paul Westbrook’s cheesy characterisation - he’s no Mario Queen of the Cabaret - I did enjoy his (silent) man-on-man routine with Maui Ryan on straps. And - mainstreaming of BDSM to one side - I giggle as he struggled to pick up offcuts from his whip-crackin’ dominatrix’s carrot strap-on dressed as a male unicorn. Rouge does bill itself as adult-circus after all...

For true circus aficionados, I think you’ll discover some tricks you haven’t seen before in this well-structured production. Rouge also has something to say, with a pleasing political message about feminism and sexual diversity. I’m calling it: Rouge is the show of the season at Sydney Spiegeltent. Catch it before 17 December. Tickets range from $50 to $80 depending upon how close you like to get to the action. Bar for a single guest pulled into the (seemingly obligatory) chair balancing routine, there are no audience interaction drawbacks to choosing the victim seats.