A-*

Hoo-rah!

  • The most skilled, talented acrobatic wunderkinds you’ve ever seen performing impossible feats, supported by a meh story.
  • Music was suitably epic, catchy, and moving. Listen to it all, but here’s one of my favorite songs: Pageant.
  • The moment you walk into the theatre, you are in a different world. Words like ‘iron’, ‘turrets’, ‘primitive’, ‘engrossing’, and ‘steampunk’ come to mind.
  • Love how much happened in the audience during the show, from charging armies to crazy swinging to drums to shooting arrows.
  • The space of the stage changed so many times and in so many different ways. It was an ocean, a jungle, a beach, a cliff-face, a boat, underwater, a factory. What I found most impressive about these transformations wasn’t the multitude of beautifully-designed giant set pieces, but rather how the big rectangular slab was used in so many different ways, based on how it rotated and what was projected onto it. Most impressive was the near-vertical cliff face being shot full of arrows that the performers swung from, and the final battle that gave us a plan view of the conflict through some incredible wire-work.
  • Speaking of wire-work, there was surprisingly little for such dangerous feats. The most stomach-twisty moment was when two guy alternate flipping and jump roping a top a massive spinning set of two wheels, performing their most dangerous stunts in moments of free fall. I was well aware that if something went wrong, they were likely to break their neck down on the edge of the big rectangular slab below.
  • Rescuing the drowning mother underwater was both heartbreaking and beautiful. Loved the technical achievement of creating bubbles and simulating swimming, especially contrasted with the real swimming of Le Reve (which made me realize how weird it was that we never saw anything under water in that show)
  • I was deeply invested and enthralled by the first twenty minutes of story and where I thought it was headed… but more on that in the Blech… section.

Blech…

  • Okay. Let me be clear. This grand spectacle, taken on its own complete terms, had almost nothing wrong with it. There was never a dull moment– every second was enamoring, from cute shadow puppets to epic battles. But the story. Oh the story. It wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t make me believe right from the moment the show started that there was something epic to be told here. But you did.
  • Here’s the story as it was told, along with what I was thinking during it: open on a happy brother and sister doing crazy kendo battle at an insane speed. Over that, we hear a deep narrator give the only words of the entire show; something like: ‘this is the story of the two imperial twins and how their conflict moves an entire nation into the chaos of war.’
    Holy crap I’m so freakin’ excited. This is going to be like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ meets ‘Blood Brothers.’Sure enough, it’s not long before the twins are separated in a struggle (you could say one was abandoned) and they’re being raised in separate tribes.
    Oh my God– they’re going to grow up and do battle on opposite sides of the same war!
    They both fall in love with tribe members. For one of the twins, there’s also a case of unrequited love.Oh Jesus, when they do battle, the lover of twin A is going to kill the lover of the twin B, and that will cause twin B to kill the lover of twin A, then twin A will kill twin B, then when twin A is the only important character left living, weeping in despair, the jealous unrequited lover of twin B kills twin A in vengeance! This is going to be glorious!!

    But… no. They each have their own adventures, then finally find each other, and rather than resentment or anger or a battle, we get a ditzy hug between them. And they team up and have one last battle with nameless villains.

    Wait, it’s over? Uh… cool? But… wait! What? Oh, blueballs.

  • Basically, I love shows that end with everyone dead, and also, after seeing several Matthew Bourne dance productions that told nuanced, emotional, evocative wordless stories, I thought I was about to witness something with a similar depth, but on a grander scale. I was simply mistaken.

 

*Because I had such incredibly high hopes for this show based on where I thought the story was taking me, my immediate reaction coming out of the theatre was C+. That aggression has passed and I’m now able to appreciate the show on its own terms. After all, apparently Cirque shows never have anything close to a semblance of a story, so I appreciate what I can get.