The other night I went to see Monica Naranjo's new show Madame Noir in Madrid. I have to say it was a rare occasion indeed. Incredibly experimental, Monica has always pushed the envelope when it comes to her pop concerts. She's done the pop arena spectacle of the kind many of her fellow superstars present to their fans. Now it seems Monica has the habit of always attempting to do something not seen previously. I don't merely mean changing the name of the tour and adding male dancers as the "extra" element or building huge sets in a phallic beating of the chest (see Take That's amazing yet ridiculous new show currently sweeping the UK). Monica instead deconstructs herself as a performer and the notion of a pop concert each and every time she sits down with her creative team to embark on a new set of shows. This is why I marvel at Monica Naranjo. She is truly one of a kind and you'll never see the same show twice with her. Each tour, each night and each show is utterly different to the previous. When Monica reinvents, it is an absolute and utter reinvention not solely of her music but also of her profile, tour and reconceptualisation of the genres that define and delineate pop, cabaret, theatre and concert too. Exhilarating and incredibly brave.
The result? Like nothing I've ever experienced before. How can I best describe the show? It certainly wasn't a concert in the strictest sense of the word. It was cabaret, musical and theatre all combined into one. The show is a story with a narrative including performances of European standards like Miedo, Para Siempre and E Poi in-between acted-out scenes of the performer, her long-suffering assistants, bumbling director and wonderfully rendered soliloquies by Monica. Absolutely groundbreaking.
Madame Noir may have been a show set in the 1950s but it was incredibly modern. Very rarely do performers go this far. For sure, artists will often don a role for a tour and even adopt a stage name to help them comprehend the dynamics of singing, the spotlight, fame and the stage. This was very different however. This was not simply Monica does Madame (like Stefani Germanotta does Lady Gaga for instance). Madame Noir reinvented the reality of the performance by collapsing the lines between theatre, musical and concert and making it work.
So much so that when the fire alarm went off backstage at the Teatro Arteria Coliseum, the audience were so drawn into Madame's realm one couldn't be sure whether it was part of the show or not. The boundaries of reality, stage, audience and performance had been blurred by Monica, her singing and the show's creative director Vanessa Jose. The theatre may have been burning down yet the show continued. Only the metal safety curtain beginning to descend over Monica (naturally still singing in character as Madame Noir despite the alarm) saw the eventual erosion of the illusion.