Could I Just Draw Your Attention to the Brevity of Life? is the overlong title of this Swiss company’s self-conscious piece, which is, emphatically and repeatedly, about performers and performance. The house lights are still up when, to a brassy fanfare, a woman in a lurid pink cocktail dress and matching eye makeup explodes into high kicks, affected arabesques and chivvying gestures, each phrase ending with a flourish and an eager-to-please smile.
Other characters enter and play to the audience. There’s a beaming, big-eyed presenter, a slick compere in a shimmering jacket, a showgirl in frills and sequins. Less obviously, there is also a man in leather shorts and a balaclava – he shows us his body but not his face – and another painted black from head to toe so that he fades into the background when not in the spotlight, and looks like the shadow of a person when in it.
Some episodes are lightly comic: a hammy illusionist conjures a woman from mid-air; a showman’s style is cramped by his dogged assistant, who clings awkwardly to his ankles while trying to maintain a beguiling pose. Others are slightly more serious, such as the can-can couple who, understanding that the interest is in their legs and underskirts, simply lie on the floor to give us a better view; or the sparkly woman who is upstaged by the myriad reflections of her disco ball.
The lighting is effective: stage lights turn into searchlights or tracer beams, shadows warp and loom. But though there are choreographic ideas aplenty, none develops as far as a sustained composition or a dramatic insight. We just get the repeated message that life’s a stage, delivered with not quite enough pizzazz to be entertaining, nor enough depth to be enlightening. Life may indeed be too brief for that.