Saturday 11 June 2016

Cirkopolis - Circus Review

What: Cirkopolis
Where: the Arts Centre – part of the 2014 Melbourne Festival
When: October 10 – 12
Directed by: Jeannot Painchaud and Dave St-Pierre
Performed by: Maude Arseneault, Mikael Bruyere-Labbe, Ashley Carr, Samuel Charlton, Joris De Jong, Myriam Deraiche, Reuben Hosler, Jonathon Julien, Lea Toran Jenner, Ugo Laffolay, Frederic Lemieux-Cormier, and Olivier Poitras.
Stage Design by: Robert Massicotte
Costumes by: Liz Vandal
Lighting by: Nicolas Descoteaux
Composed by: Stefan Boucher

Cirkopolis, playing in the State Theatre, kicks off the circus programme for this year’s Melbourne Festival.  Cirkopolis is a flagship show for the Canadian circus troupe Cirque Eloize.

Josephine Ridge, the Festival’s Creative Director, has developed a clear focus on circus for the 2014 Melbourne Festival in celebration of the city’s history and current involvement with the art form.  Aside from the history of Bailey’s Circus and then Wirth’s, and the inception of Circus Oz, Melbourne is currently home to around 20 circus troupes.

Cirque Eloize is one of the finest contemporary circuses performing around the world today.  The company works in the traditions of Circus Oz and Cirque du Soleil in that they do not use animals, focussing on human endeavour and commitment.
Cirkopolis is more than just circus though.  It is dance and theatre as well.  There is a narrative, but one which allows exploration and flights of fancy. 

The show begins with an office worker sitting at a desk with piles of paper needing to be stamped.  As he works through it people walk on by and just keep piling paper higher and higher.  Thus, the show begins with us meeting the clown.

The clown role is performed by Carr, and he is magnificent.  His Everyman office worker is in a constant state of bemusement as feats of great strength and ability occur around him.  Occasionally he tries to ‘man up’, but is outmuscled every time. 

His overarching goal is to find love and one of the most poignantly funny moments is when he woos a dress on a hanger.  Carr is ably supported in his clowning by his three female sidekicks who tease and console him throughout the show. 

Cirkopolis begins its presentation more like modern dance than circus, so it almost comes as a surprise when you realise you are getting the entire traditional circus repertoire.  For example, a classic clown routine is an interminable number of clowns coming out of a tiny car.  In this iteration, it is an interminable number of juggling pins appearing out of what looks like a normal table.

One of the unique tricks Cirque Eloize brings is the Cyr Wheel.  Daniel Cyr is a co-founder of Cirque Eloize and is credited for the development of the simple wheel as a circus apparatus in the early 21st century.  Of course it would feature in the show, as does the German Wheel, the straps, and the Chinese Pole.

Cirkopolis features acts of great strength and balance.  Laffolay is breathtaking on the straps and the teeterboard and Deraiche, the contortionist, is graceful and lighter than air.

All of the performances take place in a world strongly influenced by German Expressionism and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis more specifically.  Giant cogs and edifices are projected onto the set, which is a huge frame with rotating pillars. 

Vandal’s costumes are perfection, fully in tune with the era of the work, but also beautiful and functional at the same time.  It is through the costumes that colour and life slowly enter Everyman’s world, eventually reflected in Descoteaux’s lighting.

St-Pierre’s choreography is wonderful, but at times I did think there was too much going on, especially when there were amazing feats occurring.  The cast were used to create architecture in the space and manage transitions, but sometimes those moments were in competition.

I have to talk about the videography.  It is truly amazing.  The images are strong, and are worked into the performances and lighting seamlessly.  The projections are a performer in and of themselves.  It is a credit to Painchaud’s direction that he balances the images and the performers so perfectly.

Composer Steve Boucher has also created the most phenomenal score.  It clearly references the era in which the piece is set, and yet it is so contemporary it leaves you on the edge of your seat.

Cirkopolis is a truly complete show.  It keeps you in anticipation and curiosity the whole time.  You will laugh, and clap and cheer throughout.  If you use the promotional code TRAM you will also get 15% off full price tickets.

5 stars

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