Giselle : Remix

Based on the beautifully engaging ballet by Adolphe Adam, Giselle is a conceptual dance cabaret show designed to flip traditional ideology. This adult show has been created from a collaboration between Pleasance Associate Artist and former Roundhouse Resident Artist, Jack Sears and Choreographer Hannah Grennell. The pair clearly display their passion and imagination through what can only be described as Moving Art. As subjective as every art piece is, I believe this show will polarise audiences, however, hopefully those who see it will appreciate the heart that is presently pulsing throughout. 

The modernisation of Adam’s romantic tragedy brings us back into the 21st Century with its challenge on gender norms and sexuality. Originally written in 1842, the triumphant classic was a masterpiece of its time, however quite outdated by today’s standards - which is why this remixed version strives a reform to project more current values/culture.  

Continuing from its sell out show at the Royal Opera House, Giselle: Remix is an extremely loose take on the traditional heart-breaking story of treachery and the invincible, redeeming power of love. With lip-syncs, emotive choreography and cabaret style stage presence, each number is undoubtedly filled with drama.

The stage, initially bare, came alive with weird and wonderful displays of talent during the 70 min one-act show. The lighting by Lucy Adams was suitably versatile, with a wide variation of sequences including careful shadowing and deep colours. The music featured was an eclectic mix through the ages, some vintage classics like ‘Stormy Weather’ followed by rave remixes serving a contrasting, energetic kick. 

The costumes used had an array of materials, were mostly sheer and figure hugging with an emphasis on gender fluidity. I enjoyed soaking in the freedom and body positivity served as well as looking at the unique (and occasionally disturbing) outfits. By being named Giselle: Remix, my expectation of more similarities to the original ballet was not met during the performance. 

The storyline was narrated and lip synced by Jack Sears who gave nothing short of a high energy, infectious performance.  His engaging character shared his difficult and confusing experience of navigating through a binary world of gender norms and social pressures. With four highly skilled dancers to assist with the dramatic storytelling, we were led on a turbulent journey through the mind of an (eventually liberated) individual. 

The amazing Choreography set by Royal Ballet Soloist Hannah Grennell possessed animalistic and eerily supernatural tendencies, ejecting pure emotion and drama with each movement. This was magnified by the high quality of dancing from the ensemble. The discipline and strong technique was inspiring to watch and the beautiful storytelling conveyed some majestic and touching interpretations.

The show did however start with a poorly timed lip-sync to Judy Garland - which wasn’t a worthy opening for the talent of the dancers that ensued. The first quarter of the show included some incredibly beautiful ballet sequences with humour sprinkled on top. Draped in pastel-coloured tulle, the dancers filled the stage with a delightfully animated world. We settled in with light-hearted comedy, however the rest of the show grew very dark and explicit, boasting strong adult themes and sexual references throughout.

Jack Sears narrated the show and was joined by a dance troupe made up of Elle Fierce, Marie Astrid Mence, Spike King and Harri Eiffert. In addition, Kit Green graced the stage in both the opening and closing numbers. The small cast of six did well to keep the energy and intensity high throughout.

The strong sentiment highlighted in the piece ‘I come as one but stand as ten thousand’ was moving and the end monologue by Sears was particularly touching. In parts, Giselle: Remix showed real promise, although to obtain a higher acclaim I would suggest including more of the classical ballet arrangements resembling those presented in the beginning. 

At times the songs were far too long and could have easily been just as effective with cut versions. By shortening the numbers and keeping the intensity, there would be more impact made. Not to mention, the show could have benefitted from tighter lip syncs, especially in the opening section. 

Being a very explicit show is dramatic and thrilling however quite limiting. Having less graphic sexual displays or even slightly condensed ones could certainly make the show more palatable for viewers, enabling growth for wider target audiences. With x-rated references to clubbing scenes, a dark mental state and debauchery, this show becomes heavy quite quickly and is in definite need of some trigger warnings.

The interpretation was interesting, an emotional rollercoaster with both comedic and disturbing elements, however I’m not sure if the concept was totally communicated. For audience members who enjoy the idea of a totally uncensored, uninhibited show, unapologetically raw and thus perfect for late night viewing, then Giselle : Remix is a great choice. It’s not a show to watch, it’s something to experience. 

This is not a cabaret to take the in-laws to, but is a fun show to commence a wild night out!

This show was reviewed on the 12th April 2024 at The Pleasance Theatre, London where it runs until the 27th April 2024.  Tickets available here: GISELLE: REMIX | Pleasance Theatre Trust

Review written by Lauren Atkinson


Photo credit: Ali Wright

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