Les Idoles (Artistic platform: La Feat)

From hair dye and make-up to piercings and tattoos, we humans are obsessed with altering our exteriors. Sometimes it even reflects the bigger changes going on inside and around us. French company Les Idoles takes this idea and runs with it, going to extremes but perhaps being more truthful in the process.

Wearing blonde wigs and pouting bright pink rosebud lips, Chandra Grangean and Lise Messina look like 1950s sweethearts. Swaying their denim-clad bodies from side to side, they begin to manipulate the tape, cling film and false hair covering their artificially pretty faces. As one visage morphs cleverly into another, so too does their demeanour, until they’re down on their hands and knees like irate monkeys. 

Much like life itself, by the end the floor is littered with discarded remnants of features changed and lives rearranged. The metamorphosis to their true selves is complete, but the question of which face we present to the world, when and why looms a little larger in our minds. 

Kelly Apter

In an increasingly artificial society, the Idoles embody two characters worthy of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This unidentified humanoid species, like two plastic matryoshka dolls, embarks on an impressive double act. Their bodies are always on the move, trapped within a cathartic space revealing a profusion of personas which, layer by layer, depict a society fed on plastic.

Using an ingenious, home-made mechanism, without artifice or humility, Les Idoles play with trompe l’œil, moving scotch tape and hair extensions. In this way, like two magicians, they conjure up plural images, which, as soon as they emerge, find themselves absorbed, eaten but rarely digested, by the appearance of another entity. 

We no longer know what we’re seeing, our gaze becomes blurred and lost in the hypnotic effect of these two bodies, in unison, in tune. You can feel the intelligence of a rare choreographic and dramaturgical style. 

Reface offers all the ingredients of a work that will undoubtedly find its posterity and make you want to relive, maybe, reface the journey.

Robin Lamothe

Two blonde mannequins, draped in denim with lightly-melted faces, stand in a stark white space. Swaying in place like plastic-wrapped passengers on the world’s weirdest train, the performers start to change. 

A wig-pull reveals Sharpie-squiggled eyebrows, a sharp intake of breath sucks in pink cling film lips, and we wince as performers Chandra Grangean and Lise Messina chew on them open-mouthed, gaping and gasping.

The props and costume prove versatile – brown hair slips forward to form a beard, a pink mouth becomes a clown nose, and a red streak of paint serves as a dragon’s tongue. With each peel of the ‘skin’, a sense of dread seeps in as we wonder if the next version of these characters will be funny, creepy or something new and somehow worse.

In constant motion, eyes open or plastered shut, the pair use small moments of awkward gesture, expressive head tilts and postural shifts to utterly, horribly and brilliantly transform.

Hannah Finnimore

In a mesmerising fusion of movement and emotion, Les Idoles’ production of REFACE offers a captivating exploration of identity and culture.

Two dancers stand against a pristine white background, creating a contrast with wigs and staring eyes. As they begin to move, it’s as if their feet are rooted to the ground, and by standing in the same spot for the duration of the performance, it draws more attention to their expressive faces.

The performance unfolds and the dancers seize the spotlight by unravelling their wigs to reveal painted eyebrows. In a pivotal moment of humour, helping the audience to fully engage, they remove cellophane from their heads and begin to chew the plastic, consuming the material with a sense of voracity. This invites contemplation of the themes of transformation, and questions who are the real characters behind each of the emerging faces.

What sets this production apart is the innovative use of different elements integrated into the choreography to enhance the narrative. An evocative soundscape and movement that builds from a slow sway to a wild animal intensity, creates a multi-sensory experience, transporting the audience to a realm where reality blurs with fantasy.

Fatemeh Esmaeilghorbaninejad