Cirque du Soleil’s 25th production, OVO, first performed in 2009, is a hive of masterful movement, energy, colour, wide-eyed expressions and spectacle. Told through a day in the life of bugs and insects typical of a Brazilian rainforest – crickets, ants, spiders, fleas, cockroaches, plus many more – the structure of the show is framed by three clowns Flipo, Ladybug and the Foreigner, who introduce a strange egg: ‘Ovo’.
Set inside a purpose-built blue and yellow grand chapiteau (big top), the show is everything one might expect from its creator and founder Guy Laliberté; it’s high energy, family-friendly, and each impressive circus act has the audience gasping, clapping or laughing at all the right moments. Watching a Cirque du Soleil show is well worth adding to the bucket list. However, did OVO meet Time Out’s expectations and, importantly, its higher-than-most price tag?
In short, yes and no. OVO proved to be an evening of mesmerising acrobatics, circus skill and strength. The costumes, designed by Liz Vandal, are dazzling. Each performer maintaining entertaining bug-like poses, twitches, jumps and expressions from the get-go.
Chinese foot jugglers – ‘ants’ – juggled fruit-like cushions, and each other, like a human fruit machine. In a beautiful dare-devil rope act, Ukraine’s Dmitro Orel and Svitlana Kashevarova embodied the transformation of a butterfly with grace, impressive strength, and poetic storytelling (so poetic in fact that the act felt a little out of place from the rest of the show).
A giant slinky, the ‘Creatura’, was simple and surprisingly funny. In a stage-wide aerial act, flying scarab beetles sour unthinkable distances with an overawing synchronicity and there was only one unlucky tumble towards the safety net. There were a handful of slip-ups during headline acts, but the effect was even greater support from the audience when the next diabolo was caught, or the next improbable balancing pose a success.
The nonsensical storyline of OVO is at times like watching a live children’s TV show; the clowns’ babbling monosyllabic exchanges over the (often-absent egg) is a tad tedious ("Ohooovo? OVO!") Having said that, this is all clearly intentional – and the kids in the audience loved it. The biggest concern was that much of the performance is directed towards the middle of the audience – so if you do buy tickets, be wary of which seats you opt for.
And what of this egg that’s so central to the show? Disappointingly, nothing ever really happens to it. Though the word ‘ovo’ must have been repeated hundreds of times, and the egg itself appears throughout the acrobatic performances, it didn’t seem significant by the end of the show. Its symbolic place in the lifecycle of this Brazilian ecosystem is clambered over and rolled across the stage, but little more.
As a production, OVO feels a bit confused. The narrative is weak and not really necessary. However, none of that really matters when a single act can move an audience to the edge of their seats in wonder and anticipation.