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‘La Perle’ review: A wistful, eccentric show in Dubai

The Franco Dragone production, a permanent show at Al Habtoor City, plays out like a dream

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Dubai’s first permanent show, La Perle, is an eccentric production fit for its eccentric creator, Franco Dragone.

Dragone, known for his work with Cirque du Soleil and his self-titled company, considers himself a dreamer, and La Perle — located in Al Habtoor City — played out like a wistful dream. The 90-minute production (no intervals), performed on a dry/wet stage, was made up of an amalgamation of vignettes, sometimes cohesive and sometimes arbitrary, that centred around one young woman being chased.

The highlights were, of course, the stunts that made you fear for the safety of the performers. It’s what people were there to see — the massive drops into the pool in the centre of the stage, the man without a visible harness expertly jumping in, on and around a rotating space wheel, the five men on motorbikes pulling off a heart-stopping Globe of Death sequence — that is, a circus stunt where riders ride their bikes inside of a sphere, just barely avoiding each other as they go around and around.

There was also a two-person dragon act, who pulled off their synchronised jumps so well they nearly stole the entire show.

The production was surprisingly male-heavy, with few prominent female performances. The central damsel in distress storyline, with a Tarzan-like figure coming to the rescue, felt a tad outdated for a show so forward-thinking, but the intensity of the lead actor’s emotions brought a welcome theatricality to the show. It weaved in a few moments of humour, too, and picked up pace and momentum, both musically and through its seamless acrobatics, during the second half.

The bigger stunts felt like asides to the main story, which was an esoteric one: there’s a pearl and a doll-like object that many people are after, and there are good guys, and bad guys, and people donning all kinds of different cultural garb, and planet earth is projected in the background, and at one point, a very large, golden puppet, makes its way around the stage. Of course, there’s the aquatic elements, too — waterfalls gushing and indoor rain and performers emerging from underground.

It’s been less than a month since the show launched, so the production is still evolving and finding its perfect formula. The performers should be commended for the captivating work they managed to pull off. It would certainly be interesting to go back in a few months, or in a year, and see what has changed and what’s remained the same.

*Tickets start from Dh400 online and at the box office.