I never much cared for the circus as a child. Sad animals taken briefly from their cages and forced to perform tricks in an unnatural environment, and don’t get me started on the clowns – who, generally speaking, were about as funny as a broken leg.
But times, I’m glad to say, have changed. And circus has not just changed, but to judge by companies like Cirque Eloize, improved beyond recognition. No animals here, just an incredibly talented troupe of men and women whose multi-disciplinary skills take in acrobatics, gymnastics, juggling and a sense of the theatrical, gave us a show to remember.
Unashamedly drawing on the cinema of Fritz Lang (Metropolis) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil), the opening scenes, set before a back projection of a factory, accompanied by an industrial score, were unrelentingly grey.
But as Ashley (Carr) rebels against the drudgery of his ever-increasing workload, things lighten and brighten up as he is joined by the cast in a succession of ever more dazzling set pieces. Lea Toran Jenner, clad in a scarlet dress, circled the stage inside a Cyr Wheel (that’s rather like a giant hula hoop to those of us who know nought of such things) displaying an ability that made you think she might sustain the movement for ever. Later, Joris de Jong replicated this in a German Wheel – that’s parallel hoops connected by bars at intervals – at one point taking his hands off the hoops and controlling it only with his feet, even when upside down.
Strong man Ugo Laffolay impressed by doing push-ups with his hands the only part of his body touching the ground – even more impressive when he repeated it later with one of the female performers standing on his back. Maria Combarros took suppleness to extremes as balanced on her forearms, she brought her feet up over her head.
The heart-in-mouth moments were provided when the Chinese Pole was brought into play, the acrobatics and gymnastics taking place high in the air, before the performers hurtled downwards, stopping just short of the floor. And no safety harnesses, either.
A truly spectacular show, inventively staged and with a great soundtrack throughout. I thoroughly recommend you catch it. You might not see me in the audience though – I’m thinking of running away to join the circus.