Cirque du Soleil
For the first time ever, Cirque du Soleil’s presence in Brisbane was heralded by the launch of a ladybug adorned hot air balloon, flying high above the city and beckoning us to investigate a swarm of insects that had arrived this week with the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top).
OVO, meaning, “egg” in Portugese, is Cirque’s 25th show in 25 years (“The dream continues”) and the Brisbane season marks the Australian premiere. Another first for Brisvegas! OVO is just as colourful and just as entertaining as any of its predecessors. I took the six year old and we were treated to the spoils of the Tapis Rouge experience, thanks to the amazing Kath Rose and Associates, a dynamic company, whose work in the publicity, branding and management stakes I cannot recommend highly enough. Seriously. I actually don’t know when the woman sleeps. If your business needs a creative boost, you clearly need Kath on board. I guess she’ll sleep when she’s dead.
Despite a couple of shortcomings, OVO is excellent entertainment. The loose storyline, which begins with a foreigner bearing an enormous egg on his back (it’s enormous to the locals, the insects, although to us it appears to be a chicken’s egg) arriving amongst a colony of insects, only barely exists, with many of the acts not really story-related at all. But hang on…it’s circus, isn’t it?!
OVO is one of Cirque’s lighter productions (even the clowning at times seems little more than an homage to the Keystone Cops), without a strong social or moral message (although the program reminds us that water is essential to life) and perhaps, in the current world climate, OVO is exactly what we need. Presented around basic themes of connection, symbiosis and the biodiversity of insects (and a bit of a love story), we are treated to the unbelievable feats of human strength, balance and poise, combined with incredible costumes, makeup and world music that have become Cirque’s trademarks. I expected a darker element to emerge at some stage – an environmental or political or societal warning – but there were none, making this the ideal show to take the kids to. It’s good, clean, bright, joyful family fun.
Note: Poppy wasn’t worried by it but the loud, dramatic opening may frighten the more timid and the really little ones so be prepared for an extra cuddle at the outset!
OVO’s music (Musical Director Berna Ceppas) borrows on a couple of familiar themes and for me, sitting with Poppy dressed especially for the occasion, as if she should be in a circus herself (we like to dress thematically!), the familiar melodies mean a spontaneous, synchronised wriggle of the shoulders and accompanying giggles rather than any sort of annoyance that the score is not entirely original. The musicians, clad in cockroach costumes, are extraordinarily talented and the upbeat score is distinctly Brazilian, incorporating (as well as keyboard-produced insect sounds…. wouldn’t it be cool to include in this composition the real thing, Ms Leah Barclay?! Sound Designer Jonathan Deans) samba, carimbo, rio-funk and reggae and it’s a wonderful, surround sound experience.
Eric Champoux’s lighting design is indicative of the natural world outside and boasts four times as many moving lights as any other touring Cirque show, making use of low-energy LED lights, which, as we know from David Walters’ design for Water Wars, are far more efficient than other bulbs, lasting for 10 000 hours rather than the usual 500. Gringo Cardio’s eco-system set, Julie Begin’s stunning makeup and Liz Vandal’s textured, fitted and folded costumes come up beautifully, evoking a real sense of immersion in the natural world of the brightly coloured, busy insects. It’s surreal but it feels real.
With the Olympics imminent, I can’t help but remind the under-awed that these performers are elite athletes, with distinct skill sets that allow them to perform, night after night, the most awesome acrobatic acts seen anywhere in the world. Certainly, it’s probably fair to say that Cirque attracts the very best and we’re unlikely to see talent such as this outside of the Grand Chapiteau. The physical feats alone should be enough to impress anyone. This show’s line up includes
A hand-balancing dragonfly
Ants that juggle each other, as well as kiwi and corn, on their feet
Jumping, balancing fleas
Beautifully choreographed, contortionist spiders
A uni-cycling spider on a slackwire
A multiple Diablo wielding firefly
A Creatura cum caterpillar AKA The Human Slinky
Butterflies, intricately twisting above us on rope and tissue (aerial silk)
Flying scarab beetles (covering the longest distance in the air, making this act the most dangerous trapeze in the world)
Crickets that leap and launch themselves from trampolines to climb the largest vertical wall ever seen under a big top, reminiscent of the trampoline troupe in Dralion (1999).
Creators, Deborah Colker (Writer, Director, Choreographer) and Chantal Trembley (Director of Creation), of course with the guidance of Founder and Director of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte and Artistic Guide, Gilles Ste-Croix, will no doubt continue to tweak the show and change up the acts as the production tours. The evolution of a Cirque show is a fascinating creature and I’ll look forward to seeing the fun, romantic, light and fluffy OVO again.
If you want to splurge you can experience Cirque du Soleil the Tapis Rouge way but if the ticket price is all you’re willing to fork out, do it. Take the whole family. This is a spectacular show you shouldn’t miss!