Time Out Melbourne

This event has finished

Montreal brings a slightly muted vision of the city to Melbourne Festival’s circus showcase

Melbourne Festival is on a mission to prove the legitimacy of circus as a serious art form, with an entire arm dedicated to the delights of the big top, but judging by its headline production it may have a way to go yet. Cirkopolis is the new show from Canadian outfit Cirque Éloize, and while proficient and entertaining, it does little to persuade audiences that circus is maturing into an example of high art.

Taking its visual cues from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the production relies heavily on projections to summon the atmospherics, even if the relevance to the stage business often seems tenuous.

It opens with a desk-bound office employee overwhelmed by paperwork, constantly interrupted by straight-laced workers in grey trench coats, who quickly reveal themselves as expert tumblers. Several set pieces involving the whole cast, acrobats getting tossed in the air or jugglers filling the space with flying skittles, work extremely well, and there is a great sense of mutability in the performers’ skillsets.

Colour is introduced by a girl in a red dress performing a lovely, lyrical routine on the Cyr wheel. It brings a welcome lightness to proceedings, which is picked up later by the gentle clowning of our original office worker. His long and intricate dance with a dress and a couple of coathangers is sweet, even if it goes on too long.

The most effective note of whimsy comes from a sole juggler, who uses his skittles as an extension of his body, and brings a kind of joyous naturalism to his routine. At this point the production is less seething metropolis and more Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and if it’s a little hokey and sentimental, it’s still rather winning.

Other acts are mere variations on the kind of thing we’ve seen countless times before, and even the most accomplished acts are hardly revolutionary. Chinese pole is becoming ubiquitous, and is in danger of seeming ho-hum. The German wheel is also pretty common, but is here given extra dimension by the addition of six acrobats instead of the usual one or two.

This is the problem with circus skills. Any innovations or improvements to a routine will be rapidly absorbed by the international community and start popping up everywhere, rendering them commonplace. The only thing a circus company has to differentiate itself is a point of view, and Cirque Éloise has a curiously old-fashioned one.

Setting a show in the twenties doesn’t excuse some frankly off-colour sexual politics. The woman are all delicate flowers or sexual nymphs, and one routine has the men literally become the pavement under the feet of one siren. It comes across as fusty and conservative, as if the whole thing had been conceived by Ayn Rand.

Production-wise, the show is slick and the costumes (Liz Vandal) and lighting (Nicolas Descôteaux) are beautifully evocative. The choreography (David St-Pierre) is also a major addition, adding a lyricism and grace to the usually rambunctious acrobatics. But the theatrical elements often come across as window dressing, and the overall effect is vaguely muted. It’s fun, but hardly a revolution.

By Tim Byrne   |  

Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis video

Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis details

100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne 3004

Telephone 1300 182 183

Nearby Stations: Flinders St

Price $49.00 to $99.00

Date 10-12 Oct

Open Fri 8.30pm; Sat 2.30pm & 8.30pm; Sun 6.30pm

Arts Centre Melbourne map

Report a problem with this page

Restaurants and bars nearby

The Tea Room

85m - The Tea Room is part of the NGV serving a dozen kinds of cuppa including...

Sake Restaurant & Bar

113m - Saké is Sydney chef Shaun Presland’s contemporary Japanese restaurant...

The Deck

144m - The Deck has reopened upstairs from its former Southbank home, lending even...

More restaurants and bars nearby

Other venues nearby

Melbourne Arts Walk

98m - The Arts Centre Melbourne unveiled its Melbourne Arts Walk in December 2013,...

Hamer Hall

98m - Fifty thousand admirers turned up to the reopening of Arts Centre...

Testing Grounds

103m - What is Testing Grounds? Testing Grounds, in Southbank, has been...

NGV International

137m - The NGV is a grand modernist building where major blockbuster shows are...

More venues nearby

You might also like

Best dishes

Best dishes

The very best things we put in our mouths this month

Readers' comments, reviews, hints and pictures

Community guidelines

blog comments powered by Disqus