Big Top Blogger
“Roll up, roll up!” – isn’t that how circuses are meant to announce themselves? This spectacular shindig didn’t say those particular words aloud… but the big top said it all!
There was a lot of excitement from the crowds weaving their way across Flemington towards those distinctive blue and yellow stripes. I was among them, babbling to my friend about what we might lie before us. I don’t remember ever having been to a circus before in my life, though I must have read Enid Blyton’s circus series a million times over. To cut to the chase: I absolutely jumped at the chance to visit Cirque du Soleil’s new show ‘Evolution’ and was duly blown away by the talent and spectacle. The promotional video does it justice from a design perspective, but seeing the performers live in front of you is incredible! Having good seats allows you to see the elation and relief on the faces of the performers when they complete difficult and risky routines. No matter how many times they have practised their moves, there is always going to be more pressure in front of a live audience. The level of skill absolutely took my breath away. The creativity and design of the whole show – from choreography to sets to costumes – were a real sight to behold!
As someone with a background in creative and performing arts, every aspect of the show had my senses tingling! My mind was racing with questions about how many engineers must have been involved, how many decades upon decades of practice the artists must have put in, how long the stunning makeup would take to apply before eery show, how flexible and durable the fabric of the costumes must be.
But as the artists gave their final bows, my night still felt like it had just begun. To top off the experience… having been one of the two-thousand-odd audience members… I was one of about EIGHT or so given a tour backstage to meet some of the performers! Wowee! Not something that happens every day!
It looked as though the troops took turns greeting the wide-eyed tribe of newcomers… after all it would be an extra chore for them after a big night. However they were very friendly and made us feel very welcome. On this shift of meet-and-greet were a tired but cheerful group including the incredible crystal-clad Wang Caoliang and the blue-eyed blue-briefed muscled gymnast Olli Torkkel from the rings trio. I also got to chat with a couple of the musicians and some of the unicycle girls.
I found myself wishing that I’d prepared some more intelligent questions but found myself a little star-struck, initially asking all the stock standard questions about where everyone was from and how they’d found themselves land in this amazing business. It didn’t matter though, as even the basics were fascinating! These world class talents are currently with Cirque du Soleil on a five-year tour program around the world. Many are being shipped around with partners and even young families, though for those who come ‘alone’ the team become a surrogate family very quickly.
Among other interesting things, I learned that:
– The schedule changes drastically, regularly. Talents are specific and diverse, so there’s very little in the way of stand-ins. If some one isn’t 100%, their scene is pulled and not replaced or modified beyond recognition.
– The (impressive) backstage setup is exactly the same wherever they are in the world, pretty much down to the centimetre! A place for everything and everything in its place. It’s very practical and prevents mistakes, but apparently it’s also nice for those who work there to have something familiar given that they’re hop-scotching all over the world!
– Cirque Du Soleil have a noticable environmental focus, with – for instance – a wall of named cups to minimise use of disposables.
– There’s an enormous array of washing machines. Most costumes can be machine washed, but not tumble-dried! The drying racks are quite a sight to behold.
– The quality of workmanship on the costumes is simply breathtaking. Everything is tailor made to individual performers, including wigs and masks etc. There are nearly 800 individual pieces of costume that have to be sorted, cleaned, maintained etc.
– Every performer did more exercise on that stage than I would do in a year, yet there’s a full gym setup out the back, with some crazies still at it at 11pm after a full show!!!
– The Crystal Man costume weighs just under 4kgs and has over 4000 individual pieces of mirror sewn on to it. And yes – it is a relief to change out of it at the end of the night!
I asked the crystal-clad Caoliang if Saturday night crowds were larger and louder than weeknight crowds. He said that they were often sold out regardless of the day of the week, and that sometimes tipsy pockets of the audience could be especially encouraging and overt in the cheering and applause!
Olli was charming and chatty and didn’t seem remotely bothered at the idea of being interviewed whilst only wearing a sparkly set of blue knickers, about an inch of pancake foundation and an entirely unreasonable proportion of pure muscle. He does his own make-up every night and has improved his speed from three-hours to about thirty minutes. Oh, and he’s straight but taken, ladies!
The performance itself was amazing! I know I didn’t write too much about it, but that’s the trick. I couldn’t imagine half of the things that these amazing athlete/actors/acrobats do on a daily basis, let alone pull them off. All I can say is that if you haven’t seen “Totem – Cirque Du Soleil” then you absolutely must!
It is showing at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne until 29th March, and then heads over to Brisabane, Adelaide and Perth.
Normally, this is where I’d sign off by saying “Thanks for wearing pants,” but in Olli the Finnish gymnast’s case, I’m really not so sure…. 😉
Until next time lovelies!