Definition-defying show comes to Manila
It has toured the world for 11 years and still, Brett Haylock cannot find the exact words to describe his show.
Haylock is creative director of La Soirée, a show that has been seen in over 12 countries and 25 cities since its inception in 2004.
It has been called a variety show, a cross of burlesque and circus, and a cabaret cocktail, among others. But while these words hold true for parts of the show, Haylock believes none of them completely justify the energy of the unique concoction that will make its way to Manila this month.
“What I’m struggling with now is to capture those few words that would sell the show. This has been the same since day one and in every market that we play, it really is hard to describe—it’s really a unique experience,” Haylock told The Manila Times in a one-on-one interview during his visit to the capital.
The creative director is careful not to subscribe to an umbrella category as it might give the prospective market a false notion of what they will witness onstage. Burlesque, in particular, is a term Haylock likes to “run away from” as it has a connotation of risqué performances complete with nipple tassels and pasties, and dancing to the tune of Shirley Bassey’s “Big Spender.”
Even though this situation of inexplicable identity posed a challenge of attracting audience, La Soirée still managed to work its magic. The characters charmed their way through 5.5 million people, the estimated number of audience the Laurence Olivier Award-winning spectacle has entertained over the years.
Word of mouth
“One of the reasons for the show’s enormous success is that it borrows from a number of different worlds. It does borrow from the circus world, it has circus running in its veins, but there’s a hint of burlesque–it’s a cabaret,” Haylock explained.
“It’s all smashed up to create this thing . . . ” the creative director trailed off, looking for the right word.
“La Soirée is the word it,” he finally quipped.
The show also relied greatly on its audience to generate buzz around La Soiree for others to come and see.
“What people have to do is come along and see it and understand it for themselves. And that’s what has been the success of the show. It’s a complete word of mouth phenomenon. People come and almost act as ambassadors and go out and spread the word,” Haylock said.
Formerly called La Clique, the show that originated in London features colorful characters that, according to Haylock, have come to form a tight familial bond.
The La Soirée family includes members that offer a varied selection of talents such as acrobatic skills, pole dancing, opera singing and circus trickery, all the while keeping a comedic timing. All in all, Haylock promises performances that retain high energy from start to finish–a vibe that he is sure will fit perfectly with the Manila audience.
“It’s my first time in Manila. It’s absolutely a brief visit, but I have kind of fallen in love with Manila already, I think it’s fantastic. La Soirée and Manila are already a perfect fit,” Haylock enthused.
He had been around the city for only 24 hours by the time of the interview but is already looking forward to his return for La Soirée’s Manila run from September 23 to 27 at the Theatre at Solaire. Manila is the second leg of the show’s first Asian venture following Hong Kong.
“Filipinos are internationally-famous for being very friendly and being open and warm, and these are all qualities that you’ll find in the show,” Haylock said.
“The show is very bold, it’s cheeky, it’s playful, it’s irreverent, and I can’t wait to see how the Manila audience will respond,” he elaborated.
Asked what they should expect, Haylock replied, “I can guarantee that they’ll see things they’ve never seen before but I don’t think we’ll shock anyone too much.”
One such surprise is Le Gateau Chocolat for whom Haylock sang praises, convinced that the opera singer is sure to charm Filipino audiences as he has always done in previous outings.
“He’s larger than life. He’s got an amazing operatic voice and he’s a fantastic character. Manila would not have seen anything like him before,” Haylock said.
In keeping with Lunchbox Theatrical Productions’ practice of casting locals, Haylock and his team are on the search for a Filipino cast member.
“We will be looking for local guest acts. The format allows us to do so because it’s a variety show format. I haven’t found anyone yet but we will be turning over rocks looking for a Filipino gem and maybe we will take someone from Manila to New York or London with us,” Haylock beamed.
For Haylock, the element that moves people into becoming ambassadors for the show is not so much its appeal to the eye as it is the feeling that the show gives off.
“I think it’s a very heartwarming experience. I think that these characters, at first don’t look like you’d fall in love with them, but then they break you. It takes very little time for them to really endear themselves to you,” he said with fervor.
“They’re genuine, they’re real, they’re honest and audiences respond to that. We are conditioned to too many fakes. And this show strips that back. In the world of overnight, manufactured talents for fame, this is real and audiences can’t help but have an enormous amount of respect to that,” he furthered.
It also helped that the show’s beginnings were organic and instinctive, according to Haylock, giving birth to this hybrid that bounces off with so much energy; it cannot be pinned down with a single definition.
“[The format] had not been thought out before this show was created. It was entirely insti nctive. It wasn’t manufactured. It came together in a very organic way, and that has determined its shape all these years,” Haylock confessed.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing back when the show came together. But we hit on something; we hit on an amazing formula. Now we look back and [realized]it came before its time.”
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