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DIRECTOR: Sean Mckeown
CAST: Cirque du Soleil
VENUE: Arena, GrandWest
UNTIL: March 17
Chinese acrobatics meet Western style circus in this Cirque du Soleil performance.
First created in 1999, the show more or less follows the same idea it has right from the beginning, though it has apparently replaced some of the acts over the years.
The staging area is the tradition circus ring, with a circular rig that moves up and down and a high metal structure at the back to disguise the performers’ entrance.
Seeing this show from the side is just not as impactful as it is when you get a centre seat, facing the entrance.
Multiple vibrant costume changes and effective lighting make for quite a busy show, but the lack of narrative means this performance is not ideal for small children.
Whereas adults can fully appreciate the performers showing off their considerable talents for contortion, acrobatics and aerial dance, children under seven get bored with the circus when there isn’t a story to follow or scary animals to marvel at.
What is needed is emotional engagement, which little people don’t get from what is for them abstract – people looking beautiful as they fly through the air performing all sorts of amazing stunts. They mean nothing if you can’t appreciate the work that goes in to getting it right.
The five-year-old who accompanied me thought the whole show was really very good because the performers did clever things he cannot, but his attention wandered. He was very impressed by the “flying angels”, which is how he described an aerial act which took place in the background while a performer used cross Cyr wheels in the foreground.
The three-year-old was more impressed by the folding chairs we were sitting on, though she liked the dralions a lot. The dragon-meets-lion costumes enfold two people at a time, who tumbled and performed nifty acrobatics on giant balls. This did induce that heart-stopping “I can’t watch” moment you expect from circus acts.
The best act for me was the trampolines – with the artists using the trampoline as a launching and landing pad, defying gravity to climb up the wall. The juggler also really stood out from the rest as he merged hip-hop acrobatics and juggling. Both acts created those heart-in-the-mouth moments, creating that adrenaline jolt for the audience, which is why you go to the circus.
This show was created with the idea of strong acts filled with lots of energy and a punch at the end, so it’s not as thematically strong as others have been.
If you didn’t read up about it before the time, you’d not realise some of the performers are named (like Gaya for the woman in the African costume and Oceane for the dancer in blue) or that they represent the elements while the singers are supposed to represent harmony between the elements.
Having watched a live Cirque du Soleil performance before and the recent Cirque du Soleil film which incorporates several of their shows, this one seems so average in comparison as it is missing the drama.
If you’re keen to watch supremely gifted contortionists and acrobats then you’ll love it, but if you’re used to watching people stretch themselves into impossible positions and defy gravity, the production will seem staid.