Cirque Du Soleil: Ovo

The last time Cirque Du Soleil was in town, Saltimbanco was performed in a so-wrong sports arena, so it’s wonderful to have Ovo back in the relative intimacy of the purpose-built tent community of the Grand Chapiteau – even if it is in the weird concrete emptiness of Docklands.

Ovo. Photo by David Wyatt
Ovo. Photo by David Wyatt

In 2013, 15 million people will see one of the 20 different Cirque Du Soleil shows performing around the world. To date, over 100 million people have seen one of their shows. That’s not bad for a company that started in Quebec in 1984 with a group of 20 street performers who wanted to create imaginative, emotion-provoking circus with live music and no animals that could travel the world.

Ovo shrinks us down and lets see a community of insects who want to protect, eat or cherish an egg, whatever it holds. With incredible costumes (Liz Vandal) and make up (Julie Begin) that start with the intricate beauty of a bug, turn up the colour and pattern to human-size and make it even more gorgeous, it may convince non-bug lovers and even arachnophobes that critters with six or more legs are cool and not to be squished.

With a troupe of the bendiest, fittest, strongest, fearless performers from around the world, the tricks and routines are they-did-NOT-just-do-that jaw-dropping and, like the design, always taken to a level that’s rarely surpassed.

[pull_left]With a troupe of the bendiest, fittest, strongest, fearless performers from around the world, the tricks and routines are they-did-NOT-just-do-that jaw-dropping[/pull_left]My favourites were the dragonfly’s hand balance (Volodymyr Hrynchenko), the firefly’s amazing diablo (Tony Frebourg) and the spider on a slackwire (Ailato Julaiti). And each act ends with enough OMG moments to satisfy the most jaded. Act one ends with a team of 11 flying scarabs (Artem Burnukin, Alexander Grol, Nina Kartseva, Roman Khayrullin, Konstantin Kolbin, Maxim Komlev, Aleksandr Mischenko, Evgeny Mitin, Andrey Shapin, Valeri Tomanov, Sarfabek Zardakov) – which a good chunk of the audience get to watch from below the net – and act two with a tramp-o wall of 11 gravity-defying crickets (Michel Boillet, Lee Brearley, Kasper Falkesgaard, Shaun Gregory, Laura Houson, Yahia Icheboudene, Roman Karpovich, Sébastien Laifa, Karl L’ecuyer, Ludovic Martin, Gary Smith).

Any Cirque Du Soleil show is as spectacular and slick as a performance can be. But is there anything duller than perfection?

Ovo. Photo by David Wyatt
Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo. Photo by David Wyatt

Its no-possibility-of-mistakes or hint of individuality leaves it feeling souless. The performers are magnificent, but it feels like they could do the show in their sleep. Cirque has become a brand that doesn’t deviate and, like ordering at any Evil Ms around the world, you know exactly what you’re going to get. I saw Saltimbanco the first time Cirque came to Australia in the 90s and was blown away by a show that oozed so much love, originality and wow. But it feels like the bigger they get, the harder it is to connect to those millions of people who want to experience something incredible.

Now, I have to rant about merchandise. I know that merchandise makes money and companies need money to pay staff and artists and bring shows to the other side of the world, but to have so much lovely stuff at small-person eye level has got to make anyone taking children bonkers. The tickets to see this show are by no means cheap, but throw in snacks, a $30 program and a $39 toy frog (which was so damn cute that if they were $20, I would have bought some for presents and kept one for myself), I have no idea how families can enjoy Ovo. If your choice is a month’s rent/mortgage payment or take the family to the circus, it’s no wonder that the answer is a DVD and popcorn made in the microwave. I’m not saying don’t sell the stuff, but can it be slightly less tempting so that buying is a choice rather than something driven by guilt or nagging?

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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