|Even the artwork is uninspiring [Source: Cirque Tribune].|
Written, choreographed and directed (terms that are increasingly more dubious than the last) by Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker, Ovo tells a broad story of a colony of insects who are preparing to have a feast and dance-off. Amidst this wacky world of insects is the heart-felt story of love, illustrated though a trio of reoccurring clowns comprised of a bumbling patriarch, a ladybug, and (by far the worst) an insufferable stupid blue male called 'Flipo' who brings the egg to the colony (which subsequently just deflates with a schizophrenic light-fest and a tinny rendition of Beethoven's 5th . . . spoilers!) and treats us to a cracker of a performance by running around the tent screaming "OOOOOKAYYY! PUP-A-WAPA-PA!! WOOOOW OOOOOOOOVOOOOOO!" for what feels like 90 minutes. While the show still boasts a degree of Cirque's incredible level of athleticism in its feats and acrobatics, Ovo flops because it just goes nowhere. There is no unifying concept or structure to the show, and to simply state that the whole show falls under the umbrella of 'insects' is very broad (lazy) of the creative team. The show traipses around flouting incredible acrobatics but divorces itself from Cirque's typical aesthetic, with the majority of the show failing to uphold any attempt at a mise-en-scène, utilising stupid costumes and banal music, and failing to engage the audience emotionally due to an absence of conflict and drama that does not imprint any lasting thoughts or emotion to reflect on.
|The three main characters/clowns, and some of the costumes|
which take insect features too literally [Source: USC Annenberg].
The aerial acts were of excellent quality, but from there the production fell down a dark chasm when it came to other elements. The choreography is hilariously bad. The cast are forced to scamper and plod across the stage waving their asses around, flopping their limbs in various directions and prancing all over the place. I genuinely can not comprehend what I saw, considering that the director is also a choreographer. It's just inconsiderable that such a prolific figure like Colker could create such shit that results in a hybrid of a pre-school nativity production and the Macarena. The integration of choreography into the acts was pretty much non-existent, and when it was there it was a disaster and I felt was embarrassed for the artists.
Gringo Cardia's set was somewhat inspired when it comes to the design of the spider webs, and there are these two gigantic flowers which bloom on stage during acts but then disappear and do nothing. Eric Champoux's lighting wasn't anything notable and added nothing special to the overall look of the show. It looked nice in some scenes but whenever the act needed a more sophisticated set up it just seemed to not do anything special. The costumes are clunky and the inspiration of the insects was taken way too literally. Unlike Cirque's usual esoteric and abstract approaches to costumes, such as the exquisite appropriation of Oriental designs in KÀ (2004) or the Gypsy inspired costumes of Varekai (2001), Ovo's interpretation of insects is far too literal. Liz Vandal's variegated designs are too outlandish, merging together the emphasised grotesque features of insects with a bombastic pallet of colours. If you're irrationally impressed with costumes that smash a bunch of colours together and call it art, then hop aboard the bullshit-mobile!
Berna Cepas music (?) is hands down the most disappointing and worst aspect of the show. The idiosyncrasies of Cirque's music, which include a level of complexity comprised of memorable tunes, exquisite and ethereal lyrics, and the amalgamation of different musical genres from around the world, are all absent from Ovo's score. Cirque invited me to review the soundtrack for Ovo in 2010, and criticisms were met by this response from the composer:
|Sebastian Savard plays the violin in Ovo. The band are dressed as |
cockroaches. Not sure what the message here is
- the music never dies? [Source: All Things String].
“My goal, in essence, is to improvise musical mechanisms. My juxtaposition is the only one of its kind, due in part to the inclusion of highly-intellectual movement-commissions, with a hint of so-called 'pitch-solos'. I never sense styles, despite the fact that any pattern or performance can be, and has been interpreted as a rather dodecaphonically-melodic set of 'resonance-rhythms'. Except in rare cases (for example, when you are morphing a particularly neo-Romantic set of interactions), contemporary composers of 'triad-music' should avoid the use of themes. Unlike traditional orchestrations, I aim to develop conflicts, including a highly tonal vision that recontextualises all notions of similar fanfares.” - Berna Ceppas (via 'alibaba', The Cirque Tribune 2011)
From the ashes of that self-indulgent wank comes a soundscape that consists of annoying, skittering rhythms and snoozy tunes that resemble generic Brazilian chill elevator drones, played on dreadful synths that sounded as though they were summoned directly out of the 80s. In essence the songs sounded like a mixture of 'Girl from Impanima' and the soundtrack of 'Virtual Street Fighter', and ultimately it resembles a prehistoric homage to Barry Manilow's 'Copacobana'. In terms of composition, the score is very pedestrian, with the compositions settling on an unfulfilling melody or hook which repeats over and over, never evolving or developing any kind of climax. I sympathise for the musicians (who are, as usual, of world-class quality), trying to make the best of their shitty material while being dressed up in disgusting outfits that I suppose represent cockroaches. Singer Marie-Claude Marchand has a gorgeous crooning voice but she is under-utilised, and when used there's nothing of substance. The lyrics are insipid and could have been written by five year-olds. The main libretto of the show is the enigmatic “blarbarlagrgabaga”, “zoo zoo zoo zoo zum” and “I love you” which seem to be uttered on every vocal interjection, but alternating between 849037 different languages. Although it could be argued that the dreadful music accompanies the boring staging of the acts appropriately, the music served purely as background music and does not engage or stimulate as a stand alone product.
Despite what most audiences think, merely performing a sequence of tricks does not warrant a good Cirque du Soleil act. Although almost all the acts within the show are technically proficient, in terms of its value as a theatrical work Ovo is nothing. It lacks any thought out presentation in terms of how the act is integrated into the mise-en-scène and it's just a selection of circus acts. The core flaw of Ovo is that there is no point to the show. There is no subtext, underlying message or moral to take away after the performance – the show merely entertains its audience for the duration and has no effect beyond. Consequentially, Ovo can be summed up as people in bug costumes doing tricks. The casual consumer may claim that the extra theatrical elements are unnecessary when it comes to Cirque du Soleil since they're primarily interested in acrobatics, but that's an oxymoron because the reason that Cirque is distinguished from other circuses is because of their initial avant-garde approach to fuse the circus with theatre. Cirque, under their initial direction of Franco Dragone, completely repositioned the presentation of circus through the fusing of vividly illustrated stories into a series of feats. This character-driven, story based theatrical approach warranted Cirque's gradual escalation of ticket price into the hundreds of dollars, despite other circuses offering a similar level of athletic finesse – this was the unique appeal that enticed audiences. To forgive Ovo for omitting the key aspects that distinguish Cirque du Soleil from the rest of the world is not acceptable since Cirque du Soleil productions are not renown for shoving a bunch of acts on stage and labelling it a theatrical experience. But that's all Ovo is - a sequence of acts that thoroughly entertain the audience through skill but lack any artistic and theatrical value.
|Wacky colours and 'family fun' excuse Ovo from|
failing in every other aspect theatrically [Source: About.com].
You can't just stick an egg on stage and call it Cirque du Soleil, but that's exactly what's happened. Ovo is painfully uninspired, a generic and substandard manufactured show which draws its success out of the image of being 'family fun' – and, somehow, that makes it okay for it to be an artistic failure on every other element to the production. I blame the creative team under the woeful (or non-existent) direction of Colker, who clearly either did not understand or did not care what a true Cirque du Soleil show is comprised of.
I don't have a problem with people enjoying Ovo, and if it gets people more interested in Cirque, then I guess it's done some good. What I can't stand is people claiming that this production is a good example of a Cirque du Soleil show, or a good piece of theatre. Ovo will not create discussion or inspire change. It is not innovative, it is not special, and it is not deserving of being associated with Cirque du Soleil. The greatest mentor I've known told me that the best theatre is an experience that creates and poses the questions – Ovo does nothing of the sort, and is just a gigantic theatrical failure.