“I really love French disco from the late 70s to the early 80s”, I whispered into the ear of my friend, Sue, as we watched and listened to the DJ, and waited for the show to start, a production called Pigalle at Sydney Festival.

DJ warms up the crowd at Pigalle at Sydney Festival

As examples, here’s a few clips from the period. Heavily influenced by American disco, especially the band Chic, but with a European sensibility, the lyrics and the grooves are memorable forty years on.

To be truthful, I didn’t know too much about the show, when she suggested we attend. And I’m not sure she knew much either, as it was the suggestion of friends visiting from Melbourne. But once the show started, I was entranced. I knew every single song in the show. If there’s a “narrative”, I’m guessing it’s the music of people my age who love disco and who love dancing. There’s a common narrative of a guy dancing throughout the show, who starts as a young and energetic figure, and who lands in an older spot in his life, looking for meaning. Or at least that’s how I read it? Or maybe I’m putting too much of my own interpretation into it?

What is Pigalle? It’s the red light district of Paris, and the thematic, if not the actual setting for the songs. A modern take on the Moulin Rouge, perhaps? I loved the interpretations, with Iota (who I haven’t seen since he performed as Hedwig), and Marcia Hines as the lead performers. Along the way, there were also some acrobatic and burlesque performances, leading to a wonderful overall ensemble, where Iota and Marcia, though important, weren’t necessarily the “stars” of the show. Everyone was terrific, especially the acrobatic performances and the burlesque, which included amusing strippers and dramatic fire-eaters.

Definitely one of the most fun shows I’ve seen in a while, and the soundtrack is stuck in my head.

Pigalle Cast at Sydney Festival

Iota and Marcia Hines in Pigalle at Sydney Festival

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