Director: Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan
Reviewer: Lizzie Kirkwood
La Fille a la Mode is a site-specific promenade piece at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in which an all-female company leads the audience on a musical journey inspired by women throughout the ages. The piece uses dance, song and monologues, peppered with enjoyable allusions to Coco Chanel, silent film, it girls and socialites.
The cast exhibit astonishing physical skill, performing dance routines with mesmerising ability, including a particularly enjoyable scene that involves one company member repeatedly drunkenly falling down a flight of stairs. The charm of this piece lies in the conviction and capability of the company, each member managing to combine impressive performance skills with unanimously captivating stage presence. The most interesting aspect of the piece was the coupling of references to glamour and poise – a song early on features the Chanel quotation ‘a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous’ – with a kind of chaotic fallibility; the performers repeatedly fall over, appear alarmed at the presence of the audience, loose control and have disheveled hair and makeup. This attention to the human liability to make mistakes casts ideas of poise and perfection in a ridiculous light and adds a delightful element of wit and satire to the piece.
The problem with ‘La Fille a la Mode’ lies in the disparity between the skill of the company and the lack of ambition in its content. It’s terribly easy to unsettle an audience by singing close to someone’s face, or drawing audience members from the group, but it’s not so easy to challenge them emotionally or intellectually. However impressive the company is, it succeeded in doing neither of these things. With such a skilled group of performers the piece could have been electrifying, had their been a narrative, or if the audience had seen interaction within the company. At one point, one cast member peered round the door when another was performing, which, had she ‘accidentally’ interrupted the scene would have added a dimension of interaction and given the performers a humanity that they otherwise lacked.
Logistically, the piece suffered from having an audience that was frankly too large. Too much time was spent being instructed to ‘fill in the gaps AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE’ before settling down to watch a scene that in some cases, was barely longer than the time it took to get to it. If the piece was developed further, and involved longer sequences that were driven by a human narrative, it would surely be spectacular.