An exotic and mesmerising world of wonder and whimsy
By Tania Herbert
As a cheesy American accented voiceover runs through the sponsors, I begin to wonder whether my Cirque du Soleil experience will be all it’s cracked up to be. But I have little to fear. As the lights go down we get a strobe flash of a giant globe of light and impossibly iridescent costumed inserts perched in impossible positions around and above us, and then the show begins.
To describe Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo is a little like trying to describe a particularly gravity-defying dream. In some ways, Ovo is classic circus. The colourful ringmaster guides us through acts of clowning, acrobatics, tumbling, aerials and jugglers. However, with Cirque du Soleil, everything is turned on its head – often literally. Not only is there juggling, but its foot juggling (while balanced on someone else’s feet). The tight rope is, instead, a slack rope- on which the performer rides a unicycle, on his face (yes, his face).
However there is so much more to the story. The enigmatic “Ovo”, or egg in Portuguese, is the centerpiece of the insect world we are invited into, linking the performances and performers in both overt and subtle ways. The Brazillian-themed piece weaves in multiple elements- the samba and bossa nova-inspired soundtrack (by composer and musical director Berna Ceppas) is played live on stage by cockroach-costumed performers (the beautiful Marie-Claude Marchand a particular highlight) with lyrics in Portuguese and insect-inspired sound effects. The insects chatter to us and each other throughout, with the lack of words adding to the sense of mystique. The rich three-dimensional sets and phenomenal costuming (by costume designer Liz Vandal) finish off this psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland-type dreamscape.
And then there are the performances. The aerial silk is a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the comical worker ants juggle giant pieces of fruit, and the spider contortionist leaves us really wondering how many legs she actually has. The mastery of their art in effortless acrobats and gymnastics are thrown at the audience without breaking pace, and the show moves flawlessly from act to act, with even set changes being integrated into the performance and beautiful to watch. The finale is the definite highlight, where we see crickets and spiders leaping and crawling up an eight-metre rock wall while giant mechanical flowers and showers of petals appear magically from the roof.
There were some small opening night “jitterbugs” – a dropped diabolo cup, a missed rope – and the premiere atmosphere was lacking by the relatively small number of children in the audience for whom some of the slapstick clowning was clearly targeted.
However, the circus magic was in full force, and it wasn’t only the kids who were literally screaming with excitement. Gluttony for the imagination, Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo is the absolute elite of international performing.
Venue: “The Grand Chapiteau” and Cirque du Soleil’s mobile village in New Quay, Docklands
Season: Jan 17th – March 24th