Circus review: Cirque du Soleil - Ovo, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

A scene from Ovo PIC: John Phillips/Getty Images
A scene from Ovo PIC: John Phillips/Getty Images
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“Those kiwis blew my mind.” A sentence I overheard as the throng of circus-goers poured out of the Hydro, and a sentiment not a million miles from my own. For the kiwis are indeed the stars of this show – or, more specifically, the group of female foot jugglers flinging the giant inflatable fruit into the air.

Cirque du Soleil - Ovo, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Foot juggling is far from common in the increasingly ubiquitous world of contemporary circus – presumably because it’s so fiendishly difficult. Keeping anything in the air simply with the flick of your toes would be impressive enough, but the Cirque du Soleil troupe take this skill to a whole new level. Lying on top of each other, they catapult slices of the aforementioned kiwi and oversized corn on the cob skyward, swap places at speed then catch them. It’s the kind of act where you think, “This can’t actually be happening”.

If only Ovo stayed true to this sense of wonderment, and focused on the talent of its performers, all would be well. Instead the show’s theme – an insect ecosystem – is given the starring role. Each act is performed by a different creature: the foot jugglers are dressed as ants, the hand-balancer is a spider, the acrobats are fleas and so on, with a beautiful set of flora and fauna for them to inhabit.

An excellent trapeze act and diabolo juggler follow, but threaded throughout the show is a running “gag” about a fly who has fallen in love with a ladybird. Aided by the ringmaster, they eventually get together but not before a relentless, resolutely unfunny hounding – including some lacklustre audience interaction – which makes the energy level fall through the floor. With more than 50 performers on stage to delight us, why such emphasis is given to these three is a mystery.

It’s not until the closing scene, when a swarm of bright green crickets enter the arena, that the kiwi-inspired awe returns. Bouncing on two enormous trampolines, they scale a vast climbing wall or tumble across the stage with gravity-defying ease.

This is the kind of large-scale spectacle Cirque du Soleil are famous for and the reason they attract larger crowds than any other circus company.

The lack of narrative and absence of emotional resonance can be forgiven in the face of such daring expertise. But those clowns need to buzz off before Ovo becomes a truly satisfying experience. - KELLY APTER