Writer, Director and Choreographer: Deborah Colker
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Cirque du Soleil’s regular residencies at the Royal Albert Hall always guarantee an element of spectacle, with the visual flair that has become their trademark. The company’s latest show, a revival of OVO, which debuted in 2009 and was updated in 2015, visits the UK for the first time this year.
Inspired by the insect world, director Deborah Colker constructs an environment which combines the circus acts that are Cirque’s stock in trade with an emphasis on movement and dance. The combination is perhaps one of the company’s most cohesive shows yet, creating an immersive world in which one can really believe that one is watching metahumans – or perhaps insects bitten by radioactive acrobats – perform feats that ought to be impossible.
The community of bugs and beetles, from cockroaches to dragonflies and spiders, feels like it has a definite hierarchy, overseen by Gerald Regitschnig’s Master Flipo, a Scarab Beetle Emcee. When a housefly interloper (Jan Dutler) arrives, carrying a giant egg, the community rejects him, while taking the egg for themselves.
While that egg lends OVO its name, that element of Colker’s story is both the least important and the least well-defined, the director choosing instead to focus on Dutler’s fly enamoured pursuit of Neiva Nascimento’s flirtatious ladybird. These three characters provide a charming clowning trio, assisting in the transition from one set piece example of exemplary circus displays to another… And what displays they are.
Performing in costumes that are suggestive of their insect counterparts without obstructing their acrobatics, we move from a balancing contortionist dragonfly (Kyle Cragle) to a troupe of foot-juggling ants. The inspiration of the natural world and the way it is infused into Cirque’s routines is nowhere more in evidence than in Catherine Audy’s aerial silk routine that sees a cocoon split open to allow a butterfly to emerge. That leads into an astonishingly beautiful pas de deux performance between Audy and Alexis Trudel as two butterflies on aerial straps, repeatedly moving smoothly between dancing on the stage floor and dancing in the air.
Along with such beauty, there is much scope for humour too. That’s especially true for the dancing ‘Créatura’, a floppy-limbed giant slinky that, while sitting uncomfortably alongside the other, insect-based, characters, nevertheless accentuates OVO’s dedication to combining dance and movement with acrobatics.
Each half ends with a spectacular multi-person routine, from a stunning 10-person trapeze cradle at the end of Act I, to a finale that combines the stage’s back wall and some giant trampolines for some gravity-defying leaps, runs and tumbles.
At two hours including an interval, OVO certainly does not outstay its welcome. If anything, it feels like a slightly longer show could have allowed Colker to lend a conclusion to the story of the egg. But to leave people wanting more is always pleasing – and when a show takes as much care as this to ensure every minute is as entertaining as possible, Cirque du Soleil is onto a winner.
Runs until 4 March 2018 | Image: Contributed