30 August 2006


Cirque Éloize
3 August 2006
The Palms at Crown

A circus character tells us that rain is like happiness – it comes from nowhere and unexpectedly goes. Cirque Éloize’s Rain is an experience of unexpected beauty and joy. Themed with nostalgic childhood memories, Rain evokes the joy and transience of happiness, without the need to mourn or regret its loss.

Canadian troupe Cirque Éloize have a very impressive reputation. In Rain their reputation is reached and surpassed. This show is spectacular, intelligent, beautiful, mesmerising and joyous. It is a reminder of why the experience of theatre is so unique. I thought I was going to see a circus.

Spectacle and stunning performances aside, Rain openly explores the role of contemporary circus. A performer stands centre stage and asks if contemporary circus is just too highbrow – as she is being showered with large boots. A fellow cast member declares the inexplicable beauty of the moment, only to be told it’s just a technician throwing boots. A short satirical moment, a joke and a quick trick, but a valid question asked.

Director/writer Daniele Finzi Pasca answers the question with a production that seamlessly merges circus and theatre. Traditional tricks are fused with theatre technique and “magic”. The simple premise that we are watching a circus show in rehearsal creates the freedom to interact with the audience, whist maintaining the integrity of both circus and theatre. There is no narrative, we are engaged by the interaction of the characters as the theatre and reality blend for the audience and those on stage.

The design is perfectly framed by the proscenium arch. With colours in shades of grey, touches of sepia and bright splashes of vivid red, it is like watching a 1920s hand-coloured seaside postcard come to life. I never thought I would say that one of the best uses I’ve seen of the proscenium frame was by a circus

Images blend and merge with an almost filmic quality. The theatre allows traditional circus tricks to be presented in original and striking ways. Aerialists hang in mid air, without visible rigging. One of the most memorable images is a line of five black silks, with five performers clad in red, using the silks to create stunning lighting effects.

Humour is, of course, vital to any circus. Rain’s combination of pure slapstick with sophisticated irony is appealing without being condescending or alienating.

And then comes the rain. It really does rain. The unexpected delight of a rainstorm is magnified as water and bodies and lights and music blend to create moments of pure happy.

As Rain it is being presented at Melbourne’s own Las Vegas lounge at the Crown Casino, it is not priced for a family outing. Priced for the venue, this is circus for those who prefer a glass of wine and a comfortable couch to an ice cream and a drafty wooden bench. Fortunately those who saw it at the Brisbane Festival were able to experience the joy of Cirque Éloize for about half the price.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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