A couple days ago I found a charming photo; taken in Quebec in 1984, this is what the first performance by Cirque du Soleil looked like:
Now it looks like this:
Which is a press pic from Ovo, Cirque's traveling show that is in its second week here in Portland. I know, ugh, it's annoying that I’m even telling you this, I'm annoyed that I'm telling you this, why am I telling you this?—you already know this, as the city is overrun with Cirque’s giant egg advertisements right now, plastered on billboards and inside your newspaper.
Anyways, I went opening night and was tasked to write about the show, with additional pressure from pushy circus press people, :(:( , but have procrastinated for weeks as the thought of telling you about Cirque makes me tired and causes uncontrollable sighing, like a jaded mother reproaching a hyperactive child, i.e. "You know what I’m going to say. Do I have to say it? DON’T MAKE ME SAY IT. DON’T YOU MAKE ME…" OK! Cirque du Soleil: You are AMAZING! And fucking ridiculous. There.
Click the jump if you wanna know what the actual show was like.
First, some video:
Getting on with the write-up: since you have eyes, you’ve seen the ads and know that Ovo is about insects. The story line is something like A Bugs Life meets Family Matters, with a scrawny, clumsy spikey critter (see above, middle) substituting for the lovestruck Urkel, and a curvy ladybug-like thing playing the disinterested, but secretly-kind-of-interested, Laura Winslow. The ladybug thingy (which, by the way, I think was drunk. It kept wobbling and giggling?) has a big orange belly that’s stacked up like a pile of flotation devices; she/it also sports pink wings and polka-dots all over its chest? And wears go-go moon boots. The master bug, Flipo, (see above, right) has both the physique and puckishness of Danny DeVito, as well as a talk show host’s antagonistic insistence on order (to stay with the pop culture references, think Sally Jesse Raphael there); Flipo keeps the other bugs in their place, ordering them—as well as some audience members—around, while stomping across the stage with his giant, forked, iridescent-purple feet.
There are also kiwis that look like ottomans, which are expertly spun around by foot jugglers, and a giant pine cone that grows on stage, and a guy with crazy incredible yo-yo skills. And a trampoline that springs frog people onto a climbing wall. Plus Seth Aaron! Well, in the audience, anyways, on opening night.
I spoke over the phone with one of Cirque’s senior artistic directors, Luc Tremblay. He related to me that he is responsible for “overlooking the integrity and quality of the show.” He gave me the incredible breakdown of the show, including the rigorous work schedule, the fact that there’s often five hours of training a day for the acrobats, or sometimes two shows performed exhaustedly in one day, etc. (p.s. the Cirque company has over 5,000 employees worldwide). He has been working on Ovo for the past two years, so he also informed me of the evolution of the piece, “In the choreography of the act, all the time, we find a new ways of doing things, new routines, cannons.” Adding, “It’s in the choreography of the act itself that sometimes we find new subtleties to add on.” Cannons? New subtleties? Only in Cirque are cannons considered "subtleties," which is an absurdity that, you have to admit, is a little endearing. Anyways, Tremblay was super nice and gracious with his time.
They treat you very well. As you might expect, because Cirque du Soleil tickets cost what is some people's (err, my) week's salary. If you have the money for a ticket, do anticipate, sincerely and truly, that Cirque does an excellent job at treating you, creating an all-encompassing, consuming (Five-course desserts? Yea, that happened. IN THE V.I.P. TENT SUCKERS) experience.
Bottom line: looking beyond the unaccountable characters and the weird, slapstick, overblown spectacle, for God’s sake, a guy rode a unicycle on a wire. Backwards. AND his styling looked like Rufio—the coolest character in the fundamentally cool Hook:
Lastly, considering that it’s not 1910 anymore, our chances to enjoy a show under the Big Top have shrunken exponentially. Without Cirque, where else will you see two people dressed up like butterflies and twisting around each other while hanging 15 feet in the air from a string? Or, get a commemorative, bound program, that has a page of stickers—read: STICKERS—of the show. Then again, maybe you're not 6-years-old, and you don’t need a page of stickers to commemorate your night. Either way, that's all I'm going to say. I had a nice time.