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Brighton Festival 2013



Genre: Circus

Venue: Brighton Dome Concert Hall


Low Down

Taking as it’s stylistic back backdrop, Fritz Lang’s art deco sci-fi cinema classic Metropolis, Cirque Eloize’s latest offering Cirkolopis, riffs on the tones and themes of the film with a deft and carefree playfulness. Set against a vast screen onto which is projected computer animated industrial environments that play with perspective and suggest different environments, the 14 or so ensemble of performers create something that is as much exceptional circus, as it also most definitely theatre and dance. Elegant, joyful and stylish contemporary circus with phenomenal ensemble sequences, hypnotic design and not a moment lost.  


Cirque Eloize renders each transition in such exquisite contextual detail, they make even the most death defying tricks look effortless – like a natural outcome of the environment. Skilfully nonchalant office scenes unfold into an impossible ensemble juggling sequence. A flirtatious chat between two bell hops turns into an extraordinary double pole routine that defies any pole I’ve ever seen and before you know it, somehow insinuates the whole company. A beautiful young woman contortionist in a purple dress is lifted and falls and is held by the entire company of men in an erotic, articulate and lyrical sequence that is more reminiscent of Pina Bausch than anything I’ve seen in circus. Spellbinding, elegant stuff. 

My only disappointment was with the sound design. Although original, it felt synthetic, ham-fisted and unimaginative. It rarely added anything to any of the sequences it was attempting to support and occasionally I found it coruscatingly antagonistic. However, I am hard to please on the sound design front and mostly managed to get over myself and enjoy everything else as everyone else seemed to be doing.

A lot of contemporary circus seems to aim at the things Cirkopolis achieves with seemingly little effort. Hailing from Montreal, Cirque – Eloize share the city with a much more famous Circus franchise, it is difficult to avoid comparisons.

What I instantly loved about Cirkopolis – and perhaps it is my bias as a theatre maker – is the attention to detail on areas that are rarely considered important in the genre. Transitions, context and relationships. Sexy and playful with out being gauche or one-noted. Exceptionally high skill level with out it ever feeling like we are being force fed tricks. Sequences that had been clearly designed around the personalities and skills of the specific performer. Playful humour that arrives out of the material, but hasn’t been imposed on it. Carefully calibrated direction and choreography. Although I think what really sets it apart and makes it more than the sum of its parts is that its visual spectacle is never at the expense of the humanity and richness of the ensemble work and natural diversity of its performers.