Cirque du Soleil is rolling its immense show across the country, stopping off in Manchester to capture the imaginations of children, and the grown-up kids taking them. The tried and tested formula from the high-end circus troupe has ditched its big top tent, opting instead to pitch up in Manchester Arena. The group have commandeered half of the seating to showcase its mix of beautiful performance art and bugged out costumes in a production that originally premiered in 2009.
Opening the show, balancing pogo bugs swerve around a giant egg structure, while the speakers pump out Brazilian music, later performed live by a band of cockroaches. With a multicolour lighting projection flashing from the get-go, the show promises to be a colourful, unpredictable assortment of performances to excite its crowd. With half the arena walled off by a rockclimbing frame, the arena space is fairly intimate. Its energetic artists were ready to dazzle from all corners of the stage and began by warming up the crowd with audience interaction.
Oodles of talent were showcased, split between stunning solo/duo acts and riskier flip/flying group performances. From stacked juggling ants, to a tricycle riding trapeze artist, the first-class acts offered a sharp collection of routines. Nonetheless, if you have come to see Cirque for the storyline you will be disappointed as the story of the insect animal kingdom is close to non-existent. The OVO story follows a foreign fly who stumbles upon an insect community and falls in love with a ladybug. His egg is taken from him and he then has no choice but to prove his love for her through a set of tests.
The shows simplicity appears to be what keeps Cirque du Soleil so popular and why the crowds remain so diverse. With a mix of talented performers showcasing their acrobatic strength, contortion and Spiderman wall climbing skills, Cirque often leaves plot on the backburner. Instead, you will have to settle for the creme de la creme of stunts, alongside beautiful live music. But its fantastical collection of spiders, flees, butterflies and crickets are what allows the arena to transform from a leafy knoll to an underwater paradise.
Questionable group dance numbers also show the insects in their full spender, allowing audiences to witness their main challenge, which appears to be their costumes. With pogo feet, body padding and face masks, these incredible artists carry out impressive manoeuvres ranging from performances from a cradle act group, to a diablo artist.
This is a two-hour ensemble piece that requires fillers for costume changes and setups, so clowns (this time posing as bugs) are once again in place to aid with the killing of time. I suppose it wouldn’t be a circus without a clown, but OVO releases two onto its unnerved audience. These bugs proceeded to pull a woman out onto the stage for a five-minute piece of audience participation. It was a moment that appeared painful to its newest cast member, but delightful to all who remained seated. Whoever you are, we appreciate your sacrifice.
With a new set of routines, directed by Deborah Colker, it is great to see the travelling circus back in town. The OVO show is far from fresh but does more than many of its predecessors to keep its audiences engaged. With an inspiring vision that brings a buzzing atmosphere to the kids in the audience, its collection of nine acts morphed around a soft storyline keeps a focus on a colourful fantasy all can enjoy.