by Catherine Blanch.
In partnership with Tim Lawson and Simon Painter, the Adelaide Festival Centre is excited to present Le Noir – The Dark Side Of Cirque at the Festival Theatre. In what promises to be a unique theatrical experience, Le Noir will present more than 20 world-class aerialist, specialty acts, athletes, comedians and acrobats. The performers within Le Noir’s surreal and seductive production explore emotions through the pureness of white, the passion of red and the darkness of black.
The Clothesline speaks with 24-year-old roller-skater Jessica Ritchie, who is originally from Mackay in North Queensland, but now tours the world as part of the Le Noir cast. Jessica, who has been with the cast since April 2014, is currently enjoying her first visit to Adelaide.
“Le Noir is an amazing circus show; a sexy, burlesque, cabaret-styled performance filled with a lot of amazing raw talent,” Jessica begins. “Everybody has a different act and their own specialty which makes the show extremely interesting. It’s a high-energy production, the people are great to work with and it’s a really fun show to do.”
With each person having their own skill and style, was the show created and then the performers found to fit the parts or was it created based on the artists within the troupe?
“I believe that they had the idea for the show and then went about searching for the performers that they wanted; the perfect ones to fit the concept that they wanted to bring to Le Noir.”
Jessica and her Mexican skating partner Jeronimo [pronounced Heronimo] Ernesto are partners in life as well as in work.
“We’ve been together for about five years now and roller-skating together for two,” she says. “The skating act itself we put together so that we didn’t have to be separated by a big ocean [laughs]. Previous to this, neither of us had done anything like this before; Jeronimo was an aerialist using aerial straps and silks, and I was a dancer. So, I ran away with the circus, we put the act together… and here we are today.”
Roller-skating isn’t necessarily the easiest sport to learn so, in moving from one artform to the other, how long did skating take you both to learn?
“Jeronimo roller-skated recreationally when he was younger, and he did do a movie once about acrobatic skating – which is totally different from what he is doing now, especially when you have a partner who has never roller-skated before [laughs]. I did some inline-skating when I was about ten, but putting on the four-wheel skates is completely different and so much harder.”
Billed as a 360-degree performance, the audience will be seated on the Festival Theatre Stage around the specially-designed Le Noir stages.
“The stage we all perform on is basically like a runway; the raised circular part of the stage is about 3.5 metres in diameter,” Jessica explains. “The seats will then surround the stage so some will get that up-close-and-personal feeling while others will be further back in the more traditional theatre seating. Some will be so close to the stage they can see my foot come past their head.”
Do you have to try not to laugh when you see people duck?
“They definitely lean back in their seats, although there is no chance of me hitting them at all.”
Tell us about some of the other performers in Le Noir.
“I’ve worked with quite a few of them before,” she says. “Generally artists stay with the touring cast, but there are always those that come and go. Chilly and Fly were here the last time we toured to Australia. They are a Canadian couple who do what is called ‘The Russian Aerial Cradle’ where he is harnessed into his apparatus and is swinging her between his legs and she flips and turns. Their act is just beautiful; I love the music, the intention that they have and the story that they’ve created. It’s very artistic and is actually is one of my favourite acts in the whole show.”
Many dual acrobatic acts are quite personal and intimate, sometimes so stunning and romantic that people are quite drawn in to them. Does each of the Le Noir acts have an intended unspoken story behind them?
“Some do, while others have more of a strong theme to their performance,” Jessica replies. “For example, the style and character of our ‘Shape Mover’ is very grungy, very punk and very dark. Like I mentioned earlier, we have the three sections within the show – white, red and black – so, of course, the black is the dark. Jeronimo and I are red”
What is the Colombian Wheel of Death?
“It’s a very scary act; those guys are really crazy!” she exclaims. “It’s basically a giant hamster wheel and as it goes around and around, they are running on the outside of the while, on the inside while using skipping-ropes and doing crazy stuff!”
And this is all on that tiny stage?
“No. The Wheel of Death is a very specific act and hasn’t toured with us to all the countries that we’ve gone to so far. That will be performed in front of the main stage,” Jessica says. “Where each artist performs is completely based on what their apparatus is. We have aerial acts that use the suspended Lira, and we also have someone performing on silks, the Rola Bola (a balancing board on a rolling cylinder), a hand-balancing act that making its return to Australia… there’s about twelve different acts that will appear in the show.”
You say that you ran away with the circus, which is probably a dream for many children. How did this happen for you?
“Jeronimo and I were both working on a cruise ship when we met back in 2010. I was dancing and he was working as an aerialist,” she recalls. “When we go together, he started training me and before I knew it I fell in love with the people and wanted to do what they were doing. Jeronimo and I would only see each other six months at a time, which we thought was stupid and needed to do something about it, so that’s when we created the roller-skating act. Running away with the circus does sound like a bit of a cliché, but it’s a good one!”
The table-top stage that these skaters are performing on is only two metres in diameter, which begs the question has anyone fallen off?
“Yes, it has happened; its part of the package I suppose. My mum freaks out a bit when she comes to watch and thinks that I’m going to get hurt, but the falls are far less frequent than when we first started together.”
Jessica mentions that she and her partner create all the moves within their act, aiming to always bring something new and different.
“We definitely strive to improve. A lot the roller-skating acts that we’ve seen and know of tend to stay within their prepared act without growing or changing it. Jeronimo and I want to do it differently which is something that Le Noir has allowed us to do by being in the show and with this company. We’ve been able to find out style within the act and the kind of story we want to create because we have a natural chemistry as it is, so we want to exploit that and use it to our advantage in the act.”
Is there anything else that you would like to say?
“We just want everyone to come and see the show and enjoy what is the raw talent of the performers,” Jessica concludes. “It’s a great show and those that have seen it comment on how much they really liked it. Our last time we performed in Australia the audiences were amazing so we’re really looking to getting started again. It’s going to be a lot of fun!”
Le Noir performs at Festival Theatre Stage, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times on Wed Apr 22 until Sat May 2.