Le Grand CirqueLe Grand Cirque, now playing at the Regent Theatre, is a full-on circus spectacular, a splendid showcase of its performers’ talents. First staged in South Carolina in 2004, the show has since toured several continents, winning highly deserved plaudits along the way.

The atmosphere is set in the foyer where women dressed as angels, a little like the living statues you see in big cities, walk slowly about on stilts, easily engaging the many children and their parents. Cruisy, rhythmic world music plays throughout. The show itself begins with a warm up in front of the curtain by Salvador Salangsang, who plays a puckish MC throughout, his segments providing a much-needed change from the high voltage items of the ensemble. He is expert in coaxing, then demanding, applause from the large, well-disposed crowd, some of whom also joined good-naturedly in audience participation.

Good as this is, you go to Le Grand Cirque principally for the startling displays of athletic and acrobatic skill from the mainly Chinese troupe. The opening features a flame-thrower, tumblers, contortionists, tight rope walkers, trapeze artists, etc, etc., all in dazzling costumes. Their teamwork, hours of arduous practice, and willingness to take risks are always evident, and later highlights include the ‘glasses’ number, the solo artist sliding masterfully, gracefully up and down a rope, the ‘treadmill’ scene, and many others. They make it look easy, but it is plainly the result of outstanding physical and mental awareness, and relentless discipline. After a while the work of these fit, young, plastic bodies takes on an almost abstract quality, like human holograms or characters from a drawing by M.C. Escher, as they undertake feats which are difficult, remarkable, unnecessary, sometimes a little grotesque, even dangerous, but always arresting. All this occurs to music often of somewhat doubtful parentage, eg. Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King set to a disco beat. The music, actually, is the one defect in the show. It is much too loud, and, if anything, increases in volume after interval (I’d sit further back if I were you).

Astounding and spectacular, Le Grand Cirque is on for three weeks.

Le Grand Cirque

Venue: Regent Theatre | Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: 30 December 2010 - 23 January 2011
Tickets: from $44.90
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 111 011 | www.legrandcirque.com.au