Greetings, and welcome to 2017. Nice that we are two and a half months late to the party. Long and I have been up to a variety of things. Christmas. New Years. Respective vacations. Oh, and I went to Washington to hang out with 500,000 of my closest pals.
Yes, there feels like there is a sea change in the making and it has brought a focus on to a million component parts that assemble our individuals lives. I have been forced to rethink my attitude towards politics and political responsibility. How important it is to make our votes matter and our voices heard. How “nimby-ism” and social apathy are luxuries and lackadaisy we can no longer afford. My thoughts have been full of ponderous questions about the future, aging (my own and others), and how and where that future will unfold. Long and I have talked about this very blog and will be bringing some new, more personal attitudes to our writing. But not today. Today is about a circus.
The word “circus” is derived from the ancient Roman term for the circular arena in which performances, chariot races and contests were held. In modern times I think most people associate it with a traditional Barnum & Bailey three ring affair, with clowns, a ringmaster, lion tamers and things of that ilk which is in reality a rather archaic application. Animals rights activists have clamped down on the zoo acts (as well they should have frankly) and the Big Top has largely being replaced by the likes of the iconic blue and yellow striped “Grand Chapiteau” of Cirque Du Soleil. The modern Circus seems to be a darker, moodier, artistic affair with dramatic story lines and the limits of the human body being on display rather then their animal counterparts. Still filled with goddamn clowns, which are terrifying no matter what they look like. (Its called “coulrophobia” and yes, I have it.)
Cirkopolis is a recent effort from the 25 year old, Montreal based Cirque Eloize. The show draws a heavy visual influence from Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis, with a soundtrack with hints ranging from Pink Floyd’s The Wall through classic Peter Gabriel to the Ting Tings. The show opened on a grey industrial world with beautifully crafted moving backdrops.
The cast were grey clad, featureless Everymen against whose uniformity the troupe’s artistry peeked through. There were tumblers and contortionists, a diabolo juggler, and some impressive feats of balance and strength from the men in the cast, but for my money the show was owned by the women. There was a mesmerizing performance from a woman on the Cyr Wheel, which is basically a big hoop that one stretches out in like the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Created in 2003 by a gentleman named Daniel Cyr, the wheel was used to great effect by this performer, dressed in a flowing red dress with grey underskirts who managed to blend incredible strength into a dance that seemed delicate and even fragile. There was a contortionist who twisted her way though a support column of men, all the while seeming almost oblivious to their presence, and the female partner in the duo who tackled the Chinese Pole blew me away with her strength and agility.
I can run hot and cold on circuses. I have seen mind blowing performances (Cirque Du Soleil’s “Allegria” springs to mind) and others that fell flat (The same company’s “Toruk” was a bloody mess). This one was impressive, and fell somewhere in the middle. The venue (the Bluma Appel Theatre) was smaller and tighter, the visuals were engaging, and the soundtrack was great. Frankly, the audience was the one thing that needed some work. I speculated earlier that I think people free associate the word “circus” with the three ring version from days of yore, which means people think it would be a brilliant idea to bring kids. I would not think the messages in shows like this would appeal to the under 10 set, and yet the room was packed with them. There was fidgeting, talking and confusion from the kids which was pretty distracting. One act in the show featured one of the clowns doing a dance with an empty dress. I interpreted it as a poignant testament to loneliness and solitude and found it very moving, but the brunt of the audience seemed to take it at a comedic face value, and were laughing out loud.
Long and I went for a tea after the show. It was nice to spend some time with her, and on reflection my very fem strong and positive take on the show really does represent my attitudes and indeed the tot this blog will probably take. We will see what unfolds, but it is nice to be back.