Rouge is what would happen if the cast of Rocky Horror invaded the Cirque du Soleil. Cabaret, opera, and spellbinding acrobatics all come together for an hour brimming with unsheathed passion and stunning displays of strength. At its best, Rouge – a celebration of sexuality, attraction, and female pleasure told via circus – is thrilling, inspiring and deeply sensual. You would expect nothing less from Highwire Entertainment, Best Circus winners at the 2020 Adelaide Fringe, but even those who have watched them a hundred times will not want to miss this.
All of the performers bring something different to the foray, be it laughter or drama or soaring vocals. Dressed in an assortment of stunning outfits (or sometimes not even dressed at all), the sensational acrobatics feel all the more sensational for their presentation. Thumping music, decadent lighting and minimal distance between the stage and the audience. This brings out Rouge’s best qualities, drawing attention to the finest, thrilling details of every twist, turn, and glide. Mixtures of daring physicality and risque bravado prove to be an absolute riot, with the highlights often coming from the performance’s most absurd moments. One acrobat wearing a lampshade over their head and next to nothing else very nearly steals the show.
The only thing more naked than the performers is the stage. Odd props pieces of kit make an appearance, but asides that the arena for showcasing these performers’ amazing talents is remarkably bare. The body, unaided and unfiltered, is the main focus of Rouge. This technical minimalism makes moments like the passionate locking of eyes between performers feel startingly genuine. The drama, drive, and focus of the troupe are on full display, and Rouge knows exactly how to make keen use of each one’s unique abilities (even if those abilities include cracking whips and deep-throating a carrot).
As breathtaking as Rouge is, it isn’t seamless. One or two tech transitions feel a bit slow, and being so close to the stage you can pick up on moments where the acrobats perhaps seem to lose their balance slightly. These feel like little more than hiccups however that, as the Fringe warms ever more to Rouge’s amazing festival presence, will be long forgotten. This is circus quite unlike anything else, embracing everything great about physical theatre and injecting it with healthy doses of lewdness and freedom. A guaranteed hit of this year’s Fringe.