With a nod to golden-age artists from Fred Astaire to Charlie Chaplin, French choreographer Philippe DecouflÃ© has brought a musical extravaganza to London inspired by the soul-selling diabolical story of Faust.
Best known for his work with Cirque du Soleil and for staging the ceremonies at the Albertville Olympics of 1992, DecouflÃ©\’s vibrant and eclectic style is reflected in his latest show "Contact".
"It\’s a very free adaptation of Faust but it\’s also a variation on musical comedy — a homage to a genre that is fun in the noble sense of the word," the indefatigable 53-year-old told AFP.
"It\’s a show I love and which has been very complicated to stage. I put a lot into it. It appeals to all my senses and it has taken a long time," he said, explaining the two years of preparations.
"Contact" premiered in Paris in January and has already travelled to Belgium and Germany. A tour stop in Japan is planned for next year.
The bewildering mix of styles in this rock opera ballet is heavily inspired by the late German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch\’s famous "Kontakthof", which also gave DecouflÃ© the idea for the name.
There are elements of the musical "West Side Story" and Michael Jackson\’s "Thriller" alongside tributes to classic Hollywood musical comedy.
The Faust myth tells the story of a frustrated man who enters a pact with the devil to fulfil his desires.
The swirling plot can be hard to follow but the troupe\’s joyful energy and the musical score carry the show at Sadler\’s Wells — the centre of Britain\’s contemporary dance movement.
The choreographer rounds off the performance by filming the dancers and projecting the images onto a backdrop with a kaleidoscope-like effect.
Mixed in among the dancers on stage, cellist Pierre Le Bourgeois and singer Nosfell with his electric guitar create a hypnotic rock universe.
With tailcoats wrapped around semi-naked bodies, acrobats and a dancer performing a Dervish-style spin, the show is a colourful feast.
The artist talked about his career at a lecture at the Institut Francais in London, from his work on the clip for the 1987 song "True Faith" by New Order to Cirque du Soleil\’s show "Iris" in 2011, as well as a homage he staged for rock star David Bowie.
"I\’m always trying to create entertainment which is light and easy… but is not as stupid as the things that are on TV now," he said.