Coming, as it does, after an industrially soul-crushing prologue, it seems pastoral. It looks beautiful. Bongiovanni’s breathtaking skill is an afterthought.
“Cirkoplis,” the latest spectacle from Montreal’s Cirque Éloize, welcomes us with an office space used by shows as diverse as “The Adding Machine” and “Gatz.” It’s the office through which Charles Laughton shambles in search of escape in “If I Had a Million.” And the gears heavily cranking in the impressive video backdrop remind us that it’s also the assembly line of “Modern Times.”
The clerk is a clown, or better to report that the clown is a clerk. British comedian Ashley Carr is the everyman of the piece, seen first at a desk, rubber-stamping a paper-pile that only grows. Oppressed by an environment that knows when he’s the least insubordinate, he is pursued by a grey-suited gang into a realm of dance and acrobatics, eventually landing him into a classic clown routine (but with original twists) of romancing an ever-more-animate hanger-bound dress.
|Ashley Carr and friends|
No animals, no ring characterize this circus. In the tradition of Cirque du Soleil, this is a celebration of human ability, conquering ropes and bars and clubs and height. Jeannot Painchaud worked with that company before founding, with which he remains artistic director. And where Cirque du Soleil got bit by the Vegas bug, inflating its extravaganzas to fantastic size,
Cirque Éloize remains comparatively intimate, with a sense of non-corporate personality.
It’s a misnomer to term circus arts “gravity defying.” They celebrate that which keeps us grounded. They discover new ways of appreciating that reliable pull, whether it be the simple-looking twirls of Ugo Laffolay on straps or the hit-the-brakes precision of Maude Arseneault and Mikael Bruyere-L’Abbe on the Chinese pole.
There would seem to be few ways in which to rework the circus-arts classics, but a well-realized concept like the gears and pipes of an office space recontextualizes it all into an inspiring pursuit of freedom – even if, like me, you’d be hard-pressed to do a chin-up.
Performances continue at Proctors through August 24, and there’s an ongoing circus arts camp for kids and grown-ups through August 23.