les erotiseries Montreal erotic sexy circus dance review

Les Érotisseries takes the audience for a ride through the diversity of sexuality

The show’s artistic directors (all women) felt that there was a lack of non-commercial, non-pornographic erotic content in Montreal’s living arts scene. “We wanted something more human, more artistic, eccentric and alternative.”

Les Érotisseries is like a feast for the senses — and the imagination.

A soundtrack of aptly selected music and eerie soundscapes, the smells of smoke and sweat, the sight of full nudity on stage. For some members of the audience, even the sense of touch is stimulated. In Les Érotisseries we enter into a new world, where our deepest desires can come to fruition if we only dare to wonder just what they may be.

This French production, on now at Théâtre Espace Libre, brands itself as a series of “consensual erotic essays,” which might be a little misleading. Perhaps “consensual erotic tableaus” would better convey what’s in store for viewers.

“It’s theatre, but it doesn’t follow a plot from A to Z. It’s a series of tableaus one after another that contrast with each other,” said Éliane Bonin, one of the artistic directors. “We travel from one universe to another.”

les erotiseries Montreal erotic sexy circus dance review
Les Érotisseries. Photos by Hugo St-Laurent

Sixteen universes, to be exact, all exploring the diversity of human sexuality and erotic desires. Sometimes these desires are explored metaphorically, and other times much more overtly. And with the exception of two spoken monologues and the very occasional exchange, language is almost completely absent from the show. The sensations and passions we watch unfold onstage rarely need words to be understood.

Bonin, along with co-artistic directors Catherine Desjardins-Béland and Marie-Christine Simoneau of les Productions Carmagnole, first created Les Érotisseries in 2005. They felt that there was a lack of erotic content in Montreal’s living arts scene, and what eroticism there was felt commercialized and pornographic. 

“We wanted something more human, more artistic, eccentric and alternative,” said Bonin.

That’s exactly what you get with Les Érotisseries, whose content is also a reflection of the background in circus arts that all three artistic directors possess. The result is a show that is equal parts amusing and daring, with stunts that put you on the edge of your seat. 

It’s unabashedly weird, which might prove to be too much for some tastes. But for those willing to go into it with an open mind and confront those parts of our sexuality we hide due to shame and taboo, a rewarding experience is in store. 

It wasn’t written with the purpose of being lewd or intentionally offensive, after all. It’s just meant to be human, and to hold a mirror up to the infinite ways humans can experience sexual desire throughout their lifetime. 

“Any discomfort the audience feels is really rooted in what is considered to be taboo in society,” said Bonin.

“For a lot of people, it will be uncomfortable to see naked bodies onstage. For us it isn’t, but we understand that people aren’t always okay with that, so we really encourage the audience to respect their limits.”

The pre-show announcement advises audience members to pay attention to how they’re feeling, and to close their eyes or leave the room if it gets to be too much for them.

Where you sit also influences just how far into the experience you can go. There’s a “voyeur” section, for those who just want to watch, and a “wet” section (the two front rows and seats on the edges of the corridors) for those who want to participate.

“We really insist on the consensual part of the ‘consensual erotic essays,’” Bonin explains. 

“The ‘voyeur’ audience members, who do not want to participate, are respected in their choice. And if you want to participate and take a risk, there are three tableaux where we will call on volunteers – and it’s important to stress that it is voluntary and consent can be revoked at any time.”

les erotiseries Montreal erotic sexy circus dance review
Les Érotisseries

Participants are in for an exciting time, but not a particularly exposing or challenging one. It’s playful, not mean-spirited or vulnerable. 

Much like sex itself, the tableaus we see in Les Érotisseries run a full gamut of expression. Dildo jokes give way to high concept art with such a transition so surprisingly seamless, it must only be within the world the show creates that such a thing is possible. 

Les Érotisseries is what happens when talented people get together and commit to exploring human sexuality with no holds barred and no stone unturned. It’s magical, absurd, uncomfortable and beautiful all at once. ■

Les Érotisseries is on through May 21. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the Théâtre Espace Libre website

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section