SITTING at his desk, with an ever-increasing pile of paperwork before him, Ashley looks bored and despondent. It’s a scenario many audience members will empathise with, but what happens next is a little less familiar.
Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis
Edinburgh Festival Theatre
One by one, the grey, faceless figures that surround our timid protagonist start to show their true colours – literally. Little bursts of red, blue and yellow appear in amongst the dark-coloured suits, as the cast of Cirkopolis springs to life.
Flips, tumbles and incredible hand-to-hand balances ensue, encouraging the reluctant Ashley to look beyond the mundane, to the beauty and excitement that surrounds him.
It’s a message that runs throughout this impressive mix of theatricality and skill from Canada’s Cirque Éloize, and of course it’s meant for all of us, not just Ashley.
Inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, amongst other things, the show’s directors Dave St-Pierre and Jeannot Painchaud set about creating an oppressive world of industry and uniformity.
Large, captivating video imagery looms in the background, placing Ashley in an environment where productivity, rather than creativity, is the main agenda.
Nothing is going to blow that idea out of the water quite like a team of circus artistes, which is exactly what happens. One by one, they enter his life, challenging his self-doubt and encouraging him to have a little fun. That’s as deep as the storyline gets, but it’s enough to pave the way for Cirque Éloize’s broad range of skills.
Sometimes those skills are graceful and poetic, other times it’s brute strength that wins over the crowd. Dressed in red, Lea Toran Jenner spins inside the Cyr wheel to a romantic melody. As it wheels around the stage, her body continually changing shape inside it, the process starts to look like the most natural thing in the world. Which is, of course, the trick everyone in Cirkopolis is proficient at – making it look easy.
Whether they’re running up a Chinese pole (then plummeting dramatically back down), charging across the space in the heavy German wheel, juggling six batons or flying through the air on a trapeze, each and every act looks effortless.
Although we’re aware that’s far from true, when Ashley (our “everyman”) does an acrobatic flip in the closing moments, it leaves you with the distinct feeling we could all get up and try something new.