Once again, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival, the Victoria Spiegeltent dominates Aotea Square for the next few weeks. The pop-up venue, with its old-fashioned charm and rustic aesthetic, is a fitting host for Blanc de Blanc, a champagne-infused Australian cabaret aimed as an Antipodean take on the vintage French classic.
It's hard to know what to expect from a cabaret; they're variety shows, after all, so you there's no set formula. Generally speaking, they should be sexy but elegant, crude but with class, finding the sweet spot between high and low brow and maintaining that balance.
Blanc de Blanc seems to have its sights set on the upper end of the scale, pegging itself as "high-end spectacle" with "titillating glamour". When the performances lean into those promises, it definitely rises to the occasion. There are some impressive acrobatics and circus acts interspersed with a stylish erotica, the highlight being a two-handed aerial performance that produces something far more sensual and emotive than those high-flying acts normally do.
It's an R-rated show, as you'd expect, and there's plenty of raunchy acts to get the crowd whooping. However, Blanc de Blanc trips up in by leaning into that mature rating in the most childish way possible, mistaking a schoolboy and self-indulgent sense of humour for adult sensibilities.
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MC Romeo and underling Jared are the main culprits, firing off innuendo-heavy jokes lacking in originality, cleverness or even humour for that manner, all while the former seems to bask in a self-anointed sense of sexiness that quickly becomes painful to witness.
Some of the routines do find the fun in their naughtiness with displays of golden balloons, artful gymnastics and pop music-infused twerking, all aided by dazzling costumes that give it that air of French sophistication. But even then, I thought the one routine with unabashed nudity seemed to exist solely to goad the audience into a reaction without appearing to have any thought behind it.
The one benefit for the performers is that the crowd laps it all up as if guzzling down the many bottles of champagne that are on stage themselves. Blanc de Blanc certainly manages to entertain, but when you peel back the noise and window-dressing, there is actually very little going on. The routines are short, sharp and few and far between; the moments of true craftsmanship and talent held up with as much glitter and uninspired debauchery as possible.
Even with its never-ending love of champagne, Blanc de Blanc is more akin to a supermarket bottle of plonk, cheap and sweet enough to get you through the night but lacking that authentic French fizz that would have made it taste so much better.
What: Auckland Arts Festival - Blanc de Blanc
Where & when: Victoria Spiegeltent, Aotea Square until March 24
Reviewed by: Ethan Sills