Kurios is entertaining, poetic and exhilarating, yet may leave you scratching your head: is circus supposed to tell a tale, or are the gaping jaws the whole story?
A man and a woman putter on a dark stage dressed like Mad Max at Gallipoli. Two spots aimed at the audience means we don’t so much watch them as squint and look away. A guy in front of me tries to mask the spot with his hands. He moves about and sighs loudly and I think he’s going to walk out of the show only five minutes in. But the music shifts from period tinkling to industrial scraping, the man strips the woman naked, and they chant a raw duo of shouted slogans. It never gets easier to watch, but the guy in front of me stays.
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…
Last night was the opening show of the fourth annual Montréal Complètement Cirque Festival and the inaugural performance of the cabaret Music-Hall de la Baronne by Cirque Éloize, which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. And what better venue for this than the Olympia theatre.
I had no idea what I was in for at the Tohu on Saturday night. The decision to see Séquence 8 by Les 7 doigts de la main had been my husband’s. As Montreal’s usual six degrees of separation would have it, he had gone to high school with one of the founders. I’d seen a clip of Eric Bates performing his mesmerizing cigar box act in the halls of Radio-Canada, but that was the extent of my exposure to the collective, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
An accordion player sits discreetly at the back of the stage, playing softly while we take our seats. One of the advantages of a slow start in a Montreal venue is the opportunity for people watching. Is it just me or is everyone in this city sallow and unhealthy looking? Almost as sallow but just as charming is the old Le National theatre on St Catherine Est. Must be one of the few theatres still in its original incarnation, looking and feeling like an old whore. The 1970s-era air conditioning unit jutting out of the wall like a canker sore adds to the effect.
Created by France’s Triple Croches, Jamais 2 sans 3 is a gem for circus and music fans alike. Self-described as a “musical burlesque circus,” its three performers never cease to surprise. Their only wish is to play some music for you, but their plans are interrupted by missing instruments, a penchant for juggling and, mostly, each other.
Tobias Wegner is not only a brilliant circus performer, but a magician too. Leo, a Complètement Cirque show playing at the Théâtre Outremont, is a tromp l’oeil that submits gravity to Wegner’s will. It takes place in two identical rooms containing only a light bulb and a small suitcase. There is also an identical man in each. The only difference is that the room on the right is tipped over so the floor lies where we would assume the right-hand wall would be. As Wegner – dashing in his bowler hat and tie – runs, leaps, and jives along the walls in his room on the right, the image is reoriented in the box on the left. A reorientation that allows him to scale walls, hang from the ceiling and take a quick water break while hovering five feet in the air. I’m sure there’s a much more concise way to describe this reality renversant, directed by Québec experimental theatre legend Daniel Brière, but it’s best if you just see it yourself.
Caliban’s stealing me away. He gives my date a glance — ‘You with her?’ — then jealously whisks me away. This pre-show audience warm-up bit is a clown echo of his character’s role in the Shakespeare plot on which Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna is based. The show’s Caliban (Viktor Kee) is joined by a Miranda (Ikhertsetseg Bayarsaikhan) and Prospera (Julie McInnes). But there’s a Romeo, not a Ferdinand (Édouard Doye). Director Diane Paulus hasn’t only mashed up Shakespeare: at the media preview, she explained that she also threw in The Magic Flute—which she directed for the Canadian Opera Company last year—and Greek mythology for good measure.
What if suddenly a whole pack of potential actors and dancers ran away with the circus? As a matter of fact, this is what’s happened in…