Review – Circus that will make you gasp

2012-05-25 14:38

The circus is dead! Long live the circus! As imagined by Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline, that is.

Who wants to see whipped, moth-eaten lions and humiliated elephants doing tricks when you can watch the human body and the skill it possesses taken to ever more daring heights?

Back in 1984 two street performers in Canada – Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier – came up with an idea.

That idea became Cirque du Soleil and through the last three decades it has inspired a plethora of “circus-esque” shows.

One of these is Le Grand Cirque, born in 2004 when David King, the producer of Spirit of the Dance, decided to head for the Big Top – but with a difference.

South Africans have had these shows before, but Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline has that “A” word tacked on for a very good reason.

Hell, after the first act I needed a drink to steady my nerves, by interval I could hear a symphony of jangling nerves as we all headed for the bar to get our breath back before the likes of Globe of Death, promised in the second half.

 And the climax was well worth the wait as increasingly daring acts put their skills to the test.

The twins who fit into a barrel, the juggler who defied gravity, the strongmen who do the impossible and a balancing act so cheeky, we collectively hid our eyes.

This international all male – but for the quartet of local female dancers – cast is a showcase of what dedication and practice can do.

How many hours must a man spend in the gym to be able to carry another man’s entire body weight on his head? How many times must they have practised to be able to hold their bodies – untrembling – horizontal?

How much trust must performers have in each other to perform any of these stunts? The Wheel of Destiny nearly sent one guy splat, but I reckon he was playing up to the audience, which gazed up dumb-founded, mouths making O’s.

The MC, Salvador Salangsang, is a proficient mime and clown (not in the big shoes and red nose meaning of the word, thankfully).

He gleefully dragged members of the audience on stage for a series of hilarious stunts made all the more funny thanks to the good sportedness of the volunteers.

He threads together the acts, giving flow to what would otherwise be a series of awesome stunts.

Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline in fact follows the traditional circus format far more closely than Cirque du Soleil’s shows do as it moves from act to act, with Salangsang taking on the role of the traditional ringmaster, albeit a contemporary version of this old-fashioned top hat flourishing, red-coated master of ceremonies.

It’s cold outside, the mood is sombre as we grapple with our issues – so I guess a show like this will end up being an antidote to the dreary winter ahead.

As one fellow audience member said: “They are going to pack this out, it’s like war-time cabaret!”

I’d go again, but I’m not sure my nerves can take another spin in the Wheel of Death.

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