Rouge is labelled a ‘sexy circus’, but even that broad description struggles to encapsulate the extent of what takes place on stage. It’s decadent and grand, with some classic circus acts getting a sexy twist, but dance, opera, cabaret and burlesque all feature heavily as well.
To be fair, it would be difficult to form any kind of coherent story with so many different disciplines on display. At times, the different acts feel disjointed, placed together because they’re impressive, but not because they’re related.
This narrative, or lack thereof, is Rouge’s largest drawback, though you get the sense that it’s by design – a price they are willing to pay to incorporate so much and highlight the strengths of the cast. I thought another, smaller weakness, was the lack of original music. When the singing does come, it’s great, but the vast majority of the musical offerings came from speakers.
Straight from a smash-hit run @edfringe, the subversive and supremely sexy ‘Rouge’ is currently shaking things up @UnderbellyFest in London’s Southbank. Have a look at the brand-new production images here: https://t.co/LE2jwX5khE
📷 Ian Georgeson pic.twitter.com/g4ZN93krBw
— The Corner Shop PR Scotland (@TheCornerShopPR) September 4, 2019
There’s a bizarre but not altogether unenjoyable affinity for lampshades as hats. At one point, a dancer undresses to nothing other than a lampshade and a light switch, and she is soon joined by the rest in lampshades as well.
A carrot strap-on makes an appearance, before being nibbled away by a man wearing a unicorn bondage mask. The nibbler is not alone in donning the unusual headgear, as there are perhaps a half dozen of them crawling around on their hands and knees in one routine.
Given the spicy nature of Rouge, it would be easy to overlook some of the circus itself. I imagine most of the crowd are in attendance for the racier moments, but the quality of the acrobatics and the lifts is enough to draw people alone. It might not stack up to a top, top tier circus act, but there are enough hair-raising moments as performers plummet from the ceiling or dangle from a trapeze by a heel.
Rouge knows what it is and sticks to what it knows. It’s late-night Fringe entertainment and it fills that role with aplomb.