Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saltimbanco in Brisbane

I have no idea why he's in the artwork.
On Friday (8/7/11) I took Rhed along to see Saltimbanco at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Seeing as Cirque du Soleil only tours here every other year, and I'd already seen Saltimbanco last year in Germany, it was a little disappointing that they were sending us Saltimbanco again. It toured the Asia Pacific area back in 1999, and although it's being doted as the show that started Australia's love of Cirque, it's not even touring in the tent this year. Still, we're not America - we don't have five troupes trotting over the continent at once, so I'll take whatever Cirque I can get. I was glad to take Rhed to see a real show though, and of course, it did not disappoint.  

Saltimbanco is a feast of entertainment. Clearly there wasn't enough colour in the '80s, because the show was concieved by master director Franco Dragone as an antidote to the ridiculous doom and gloom of that the '90s were bringing us.  Saltimbanco is bursting with colour and brimming with excitement. While I think the colours of the show are starting to look out of date, the charm of the show is still felt since you are fully hooked when you sit down to watch the show. Likewise, the music is drenched with synthesisers (as is Dupéré's signature on his music) but it's not quite out of date since the vibrant band rock the fuck out on stage like it's no one's business, and at their helm was the ferocious, firey and powerful BEAST that is Nicola Dawn, who rips through the music with so much passion that makes your skin crawl. The BCE is an okay venue - Rhed and I were sitting a lot closer than I expected, so with a large focus on the stage I managed to mostly forget... but I couldn't fully forget that we weren't sitting in the signature magical Cirque du Soleil tent, we were indeed in an arena.

The Saltimbanco Arena Cast (2008).
Anyway, all that aside, Saltimbanco has a (mostly) great first act. The opening is a little underwhelming but the music is beautiful and the lead into the Adagio Trio is indeed charming. I was glad to see the act because I missed it in Bremen, although it was slightly lacklustre because if you're not sitting in the audience, you don't get much of a view of what they're doing. The act was followed by the Chinese Poles, which was excellent. The booming bass and imposing strings get the boil pumping and people are ridiculously strong - it was one of my favourite acts of the night. Martin Pons' portrayal of Edi was really annoying in the first act. There were just too many juvenile jokes crammed in with a scenario where he drowns in a toilet, which I guiltily admitted was the most satisfying part of his act. He picks up in the next act though, and I can forgive him as we're not in the intimate space of a Chapiteau, we're in a huge arena. The next was the Artistic Bicycle - let me tell you right now, there is nothing artistic about it. I didn't enjoy it in Bremen, and I didn't enjoy it in Brisbane, it's just stupid. Since it was the opening night we had the pleasure of seeing the Handbalancing on Canes, which was performed by the screamingly flexible Ariunsanaa Bataa. I was literally seething with pain, emitting guttural noises out of my mouth, since she was performing the most extreme and painful looking contortion I'd ever seen in my life. She actually clamps her teeth on a stand and it looks like she's going to snap her body in half. Fucking bow down to the queen of contortion! The act was followed by juggling who dropped it a few times, my opinion on the act was exactly the same as Bremen, but he's very skilled and it was a crowd pleaser.
"Hey Nicola, can I have a high five?" "Sure LOL jk/s PSYCH!"
Act One should end there, because Boleadoras is the worst act in the world. I'd rather watch QTC's production of King Lear again than watch that 11 minute fiasco. You think it's almost finished at 6 minutes, but I rolled over to Rhed and said "BUT THERE'S MORE!!".  I'm honestly not sure why it's in the show, but Rhed pointed out it would be excellent if you were tripping out on the shrooms.
That's pretty much the whole act.
Act Two opens with Cirque's grooviest music, and the artists swarm on stage in a symphony of colours to perform the Russian Swing. The artists were having a great time, there were gasps of astonishment and admiration from the audience, and I was just smiling the whole time. Segue into my favourite act of the night, the ladies who fly with ease from the flying trapeze. Accompanied by the chilling and powerful score, they bend through the air, tossing and catching each other with their feet. A chorus of squeals came from the girls sitting behind us as the artists remove the safety padding from the stage.   Edi joins the stage but it wasn't painfuil this time - his skits involving the audience member were electric and everyone around me was laughing (including the angry couple sitting next to me). The interactions with the lovely James Clowney (who I also saw in Bremen) were really funny, and while we're on the subject of actors, Gerard Theoret who has just stepped in this year as The Baron was magical (his Rideau was perfection). Hand to Hand has music that is dreadfully dull (although somehow better than the Artistic Bicycle), and although artistically and aesthetically inferior to both Zed and Quidam, the act is undoubtedly impressive with the physical moves of the two unusually muscled men who are clad in tight green overalls. The closing act is one of impeccable beauty, with Nicola performing an aria while the Bungees glide up and down like angels while their elaborate movements are symmetrically mirrored or performed in a sequence with the other artists. The second act just eclipsed the first one, and was the most fun I've ever had at a Cirque du Soleil production.
Come and see Saltimbanco - my nose and I will be waiting for you.
Seeing as the ticket price has bled me dry I can't afford to go again (and catch the new singer, Charlie Jones, who's from NSW), but if I did have the cash I would. Saltimbanco is a wonderful Cirque du Soleil production, with amazing acrobatics, mostly excellent music, and wonderful performers. Although it's not shown in its grandeur in the Grand Chapiteau, it's a classic Cirque du Soleil show that doesn't try and put eggs on stage and call it art. Which is what Australia will be watching exactly one year from now, so expose yourself to the good shows while you've got a chance.

Tickets for Cirque du Soleil's 'Saltimbanco' range from $79-$325, and is showing until July 17th. Book by visiting Ticketek or by calling (07) 3265 8447. Children under 2 are admitted free, but if you bring a baby into a show and it starts crying people will hurt you. That's why God invented McDonalds.

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