Circus comes to town - dude

All Pictures © 2010 Theatre T&C/Valérie Ramese

 Cirque Éloize - iD

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

IT'S Circus Jim, but not as we know it!

This is what they call nouveau cirque , in this case circus with attitude, with streetwise swagger, brashness and some amazing skill, all to a pulsating beat and a backdrop of some comic book metropolis.

The backdrop changes with each act thanks to some clever projection on to the set dominated by a trampowall – the perpendicular wall behind a trampoline, of which more later.

The start is like a 1940's musical with the cast in elegant fashions hurrying to and fro in a city street scene until we are left with two lovers, Philippe Renaud and Justine Méthé-Crozat as the rest of the cast fade into slow motion.

Our lovers argue and then the chemistry takes over to create some amazing acrobatics with Justine balancing high in the air much of the time on just one hand. It is a display of balance, agility, skill and strength.

Justine also does some amazing things later on an aerial hoop, holding on merely by balance and at one point, the strength of her ankles.

In a sort of hint of West Side Story there are two urban gangs at work in the plot which gives us Victor De Abreu Oliveria strutting his stuff on  a Chinese pole to impress the sexy Justine. He shows amazing strength to hold his body out horizontally in a sort of crucifix turned through 90 degrees with a particularly impressive controlled fall the full length of the pole.

The big number, the showstopper though is Thibaut Phillipe  who can do things on a trial bike which most people would  struggle to manage on foot.

Not only can he bounce from cube to cube on one wheel, but he manages to climb 20ft or so up the back wall, all on a bike.

In his second set  some poor soul dragged up from the audience found himself lying on the floor with bike and rider bouncing around his nether regions and around his head. He will think twice about booking seats in the front stalls again.

The set changed to a construction site where Nicolas Fortin and Hugo Ouellet-Côté amazed us with some juggling with so many balls it was impossible to keep count.

His later display on the aerial straps, suspended from a hook and doing complex gymnastics while whirling around in mid aid made my shoulders ache just watching.

There were gentler moments as well with Emi Vauthey  giving stunning performance on aerial silks, two lengths of silk suspended from a hook with her rolling up and down, hanging, flying all wrapped in the cloth and spinning in mid air.

That was good but her contortion act was just unbelievable. She must have ball and socket joints and rubber limbs. I have never before seen anyone able to run completely around their own body while lying on their stomach – think about it and wince.

We had a great skipping rope extravaganza with both gangs first threatening then challenging each other with the entire cast involved which gave us Thibaut back with the bike skipping two ropes at once and Victor doing a sort of jumping press up skipping two ropes at once. All very elaborate, complex, fast and great fun.

Xuan Le does some things on in-line skates which are just not possible throughout the show including weaving around a line of close set cones, skipping and then skating almost horizontally with Emi and her silks.

Lisa Eckert gave an impressive display on the Cyr Wheel, that's the big hoop you stand inside and roll around the stage.

It looks great fun and she makes it look very easy – fun yes, but easy . . . I suspect not.

It takes balance as does Ryan Shinji Murray's party trick. He managed to do a handstand on two chairs balanced at an angle of 45 degrees on top of a column of eight chairs.

The end of the show is spectacular with Lisa, Nicolas, Hugo, Phillipe  and Ryan in an endless succession on a trampoline at one point bouncing like a jugglers throwing balls against a wall.

The trampolining skills individually were high but to combine them with , two, three, four and at times five people jumping at once is just  amazing. Get the timing there wrong and it is a block booking at A&E.

After a while you are losing any sense of up or down as bodies fly around, twisting and turning, spinning and bouncing. As finales in any sort of circus go, that is up there with the best.

Nouveau cirque, contemporary circus, has been around since the 70s - this Montreal based troupe started in 1993 -  and dispenses with the idea of circus animals, rings and ringmasters.

Instead there is a mix of circus and acrobatic skills mixed with theatre and Cirque Éloize adds pulsating urban music and settings with street dancing, high energy, enthusiasm and bags of fun. To 05-11-11

Roger Clarke

Nothing to do with this show but interesting - the circus ring was invented by a man called Philip Astley in 1768. Astley was born just up the road in in Newcastle-under-Lyme and is regarded as the father of the modern circus.

He ran Astley's Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts in London in the 1770s, regarded as the first circus, with riding lessons in the mornings and trick riding shows in the afternoon. His first ring was  62 feet in diameter but he soon changed that to 42 feet, which has been the international standard size for circus rings ever since.

The final diameter was what he decided to be the best size for man to stand on a cantering horse and retain his balance through a steady speed of the horse and centrifugal force.

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