Cirque du Soleil is back in town with its latest extravaganza in the Grand Chapiteau, a blue and yellow big top erected in Docklands. The name of the show Dralion is a fusion of dragon and lion, symbols of the East and the West. With a large contingent of Chinese performers, Dralion fuses the ancient Chinese circus tradition with the Cirque du Soleil’s more usual avant-garde approach, to explore the past and future through the elements of air, fire, water and earth, painting a vivid picture of swirling colours in costumes, lights and setting.
Cirque du Soleil creates an atmosphere that is electric and futuristic but heart-warming and human. It retains the inclusiveness of the circus, with clowns involving individual members of the audience from the outset. The extended clown sequences were not that funny, although of course it is not what you do but the way that you do it and one clown - the only Australian performer, Hayden Spencer - stood out for his wonderful physical comedy. The whole event – from the pedicabs (tricycle taxis) that ferry spectators to the show to the treasure trove of circus souvenirs in the marketplace and the show itself in the Grand Chapiteau – is geared to induce a state of euphoria.
Cirque du Soleil has a number of shows playing throughout the world, so only a selection of their artistes are performing at any one place. There seemed to be fewer solo and virtuoso acts – only one contortionist and one juggler – than in previous shows, but what a contortionist and what a juggler! The contortionist performed an act of single hand balancing that defied belief in the limitations of the human body. The juggler used his fluid and expressive body to make his juggling act into a divine dance. Breathtaking acts - an aerial pas de deux, a double trapeze, a free-falling trampoline act against a version of a wall of death, a ballet on lights - were interspersed with group acrobatic displays using skipping ropes, bamboo poles, balls and hoops. The hoop diving act was a frenzy of flying and twirling bodies that gained momentum and excitement, strangely heightened when a hoop was knocked over a couple of times, making us even more aware of the difficulty involved.
After the interval we were given a glimpse of the band, normally obscured at the back of the stage. The music, which took us from the simple bass drums and piano backing Chad Oliver’s otherworldly falsetto voice, through a Middle Eastern bazaar to the outreaches of the Orient, is a vital element of the show, threading drama and emotion through the splendid palette of colour and motion onstage. Our minds are expanded by the vision of perfectly tuned bodies stretched to the limit of their capacities in the context of vibrant settings and sounds that still linger, when the show is over, like lucid dreams.
Cirque du Soleil
Venue: Grand Chapiteau | Docklands Drive, Docklands
Dates: April 9 - June 14, 2009
Tickets: from $55.00 to $119.00 for adults and $35.00 to $95.00 for children
Bookings: www.cirquedusoleil.com or by phone on 1300 130 300