Culture & Conversation

Ironworkers unsteady as circus hits the Satosphere

Ironworkers Local 777 by Montreal circus company Fabrique Métamorphosis features a blur of a concept invoked as a backdrop to impressive displays of acrobatic achievement. But perhaps the troupe let their marketing department get away from them. Ultimately, the hype announcing a multidisciplinary extravaganza fell flat against a conventional circus show set in an audacious but underutilized venue.

The chief innovation of this troupe’s latest production is a 360 degree projection dome that brought the circus to the Satosphere at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT). And even if the quality of the visuals couldn’t help but seem a decade behind the times – the press image (featured above) prepared us for photographic calibre, but unconvincing CGI awaited us instead – the result was nonetheless a unique and exciting blend of audio-visual immersion and intimate physical performance.

Digital shortcomings aside, the idea of producing a circus performance for the Satosphere was an ambitious and electrifying novelty which bore its fair share of successes as the show progressed. One highpoint in particular comes to mind, which cast a male and female construction worker in a palpably tense and elegantly executed duet – the gender parity of the four construction workers was a notable decision by Artistic Director Héloise Depocas. The well-choreographed sequence saw the two engage in a highstakes vertical tango set to a pole, and against the backdrop of a falling steel frame which seemed to make the entire room plummet, and the performers hang high.

The setting of the stage in the centre of the circular room also brought the performers closer to the crowd. With only a handful of rows separating the audience from the acrobats, the alternating nervousness and excitement of the crowd was amplified in the audible gasps and squeals which matched each completed feat. It all lent to a warm and festive ambiance in the room, which was played up by the swingin’, jazzy soundtrack that evoked the early days of the great skyscrapers in the Roaring Twenties, slicked up with the hip hop beat and electronic gloss of 2013.

Yet despite the show’s stronger moments, the whole often suffered from a lack of focus and cohesion, with little to draw the disparate pieces together. The 360 degree backdrops seemed to shuffle almost at random, and ran the gamut from a generic computer generated skyline, to a monumental skeleton, a highway underpass, and even gigantic mechanical cogs. Often the supposed concept of the show seemed present only as a vague aesthetic referent, with the promising inspiration of an “urban jungle” squandered somewhat into serving as an unconvincing premise for a series of cool stunts.

The circus feats, of course, were admittedly quite good, as we have come to expect from Montréal Complètement Cirque. Yet even here, when held up against its peers, the movements in Ironworkers Local 777 often lacked sharpness and precision, and called for more polish and definition to take the show a notch up.

The night before Fabrique Métamorphosis’s opening night show at the Satosphere Tuesday night, fellow Montrealers Nord Nord Est raised the bar immensely with the debut of their unqualified triumph of multidisciplinary creation, Le voyage d’hiver.

Whereas Nord Nord Est seems a dynamic and innovative young company with an astounding mastery over their art, Fabrique Métamorphosis demonstrates great style and potential, but ultimately wins fewer accolades on the substance. There is talent and skill in this company yet, but also great room for growth in the development of their creative vision and craft.

Ironworkers Local 777 plays July 9-13 as part of Montréal Complètement Cirque. For showtimes and to purchase tickets, please visit the festival website.


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