First look: Dubai's La Perle performers take to the stage
It's the world's first glimpse at the La Perle show in action, as performers give us a sneak peek of the show
It's Franco Dragone's world, we're just living in it.
At least, that's the order of the night the minute you step inside La Perle by Dragone.
As a restless assembled crowd of media checked their watches as the Wednesday’s preview ran over an hour late to start, news filtered through that Dragone was making some last-minute changes, and putting some finishing touches on. Any listlessness evaporated. If anything, the energy suddenly lifted.
If the man who brought us many a Cirque du Soleil performance, resident shows from China to Paris, and has Celine Dion’s Las Vegas residency under his belt needs a minute to perfect a move or two - by all means, he should have it.
Besides, if a 15-minute snapshot is anything to go by - Dubai is in for something unlike anything it’s seen before come August 31. And in a city that deals almost exclusively in the hyperbole, that’s saying something.
The moment the lights dim, the theatre comes alive. Projections flow across its every edifice; the walls, the floor, the stalls - but there’s no craning your neck for an adequate view of it all.
When you ask Dragone to produce a show, you don’t give him space in an existing venue. Instead, you construct a whole 10-storey building to hold his stage. And source a few million litres of water.
The 1,300-seat state-of-the-art aqua theatre has been designed so that each seat has a guaranteed view of the pool, the stage and acrobatics.
Without 90-degree angles, the theatre experience is all-enveloping, with the undulating bronze-coloured edifice protruding over the stage, giving the impression of a futuristic opera-house interior as conceived by Gaudí.
A montage of incredible scenes akin to a best-of of National Geographic documentaries screen across the entire theatre, in an all-encompassing experience that will leave you unable to be satisfied with a 3D movie ever again.
Though it's unclear at what point the story is at during the scene, from the pacing crowd of performers on the ground and the spotlighted female dancer trying to make sense of it all, it's obvious this is no normal stage show. Dragone wants his viewers to look, and think, beyond the performance.
Of course, aside from the impressive lighting and graphics, all the expected theatrics are there; the acrobats, the athletes and the crazy costumes. While we don’t see a lot from the state-of-the art pool, a cornerstone of La Perle’s concept, several impressive male acrobats dip a toe in, quite literally, before taking to the skies for an aerial show.
But where La Perle sets itself apart is in the attention to detail. There’s no gesture that’s not been thought out, no space in the theatre that hasn’t been considered. The acrobats fly so far overhead, you’re worried they might accidentally take out a tall patron, or smack into a stall.
Dragone, a former director of Cirque du Soleil, who is credited with fusing the high art of theatre and ballet with the audience draw of circus-style entertainment, sounds utterly humbled by the experience. In a brief pre-show speech, he thanked the audience emphatically for coming, and pays tribute to his “jewel” - the theatre.
“Never have we pushed so far the envelope than with this,” he said.
“We want to seduce as many people as we can [with the show].”
As well as praising its acoustics, its size and assets, the Italian-Belgian legend of the stage fumbled slightly trying to translate the experience of the past few months into English.
“It’s like driving a spaceship,” he finally settles on.
He hailed the "courage" of Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice Chairman of Al Habtoor and chief executive of Al Habtoor Group, in bringing the show to Dubai.
He also seemed to have formed a kind of affinity with the city, insisting it is the “laboratory of the future”.
With only a couple of weeks until opening night on August 31, preparations at the venue – nestled between The W and Westin hotels in Dubai’s Al Habtoor City – is teeming with plenty of excited faces, all working to fulfil one man’s indomitable vision.
"We are dreamers but we are also people that want to make something in this world,” Dragone said, as the lights dim.
"We call it entertainment but we hope it's something more than entertainment.”
La Perle by Dragone has its premiere on August 31, with performances running from Tuesday to Friday, 7pm and 9.30pm; Saturday, 4pm and 7pm. To book tickets, visit www.laperle.com
Updated: August 17, 2017 12:58 AM