Monjour (My Day) reads the insignia on the back of the cyclorama as we enter the theatre. My day for what? is the unsettling question it begs. ‘Breathe in, breath out’, whispers a voice with a pronounced Italian accent. It is choreographer Silvia Gribaudi, in the front row of the auditorium with a microphone. Part MC, part benevolent rehearsal director, she’s reassuring us: ‘It’s for you.’
Next arrives a tall, whippet-thin dancer, nude except for unsexy socks and trainers, cupping his hands over his crotch like a five-fingered fig leaf. He stands in front of the cyclo: a St Sebastian, the protector from the plague, about to targeted with arrows, or the opening act of a nude cabaret? One by one, four other equally unclad men join him. Of assorted body shapes, from compact to chubby, all are deft in the sleight-of-hand of never allowing their fleshy fig leaves to slip, despite their ever more energetic choreography. This jovial, bare-bottomed troupe is ‘just for you’, the soft voice reminds us.
The men don boxer shorts or, in the case of the most balletic and bouncy dancer, a lurex short-suit, and vignettes of varying virtuosity ensue: acrobatics, break-dance, capoeira-like duos and, in one instance, a shower of red noses thrown at a performer who juggles them ineptly, allowing them to tumble around him over the stage. It’s an image that at last resonates with the polka-dot graphics and outlandishly distorted circus figures, drawn by cartoonist Francesca Ghermandi, that have been sporadically spooling across the backdrop since the start of the show.
Towards the end, Gribaudi joins the men on stage and together they perform a protracted révérence, their bowed heads nudging the audience to continue clapping. Although endearing and jocular, the faux fin seems to point the responsibility for the stuttering nature of this neither fish nor fowl performance at us, the audience, and our reactions, or lack of them. We’re all in it together, it seems to say. But it lost me somewhere along the way.