By BRUCE DENNILL
Cirque Éloize: ID / Directed by Jeannot Painchaud / Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways, vrc Johannesburg
Montreal’s Cirque Éloize is all about energy, movement and reaction to rhythm, and for ID, all of these facets are concentrated in a single inner-city setting given different personalities by ever-changing visuals provided by a bank of projectors. The various apparatus used by the performers – there are 12 disciplines, including Chinese pole, a trial bike, an aerial hoop and the ever-impressive “trampowall”, interwoven into a very basic plot – are inserted and removed with practiced slickness, removing the opportunity for the always-active cast to grab a breather.
Their level of activity is what drives the show. Each dancer, acrobat, athlete and contortionist is constantly on the go, propelled by gut-punchingly loud beats and the gasps of the more emotional members of the audience. They’re given a narrative to hang their movements on, with a West Side Story-light gang or clan dispute playing out at various points in the piece. That aspect of the show is weak, but it’s not at all the central point of the production, and certainly helps keep the action moving forward
It seems as though most, if not all of the cast are specialists in their disciplines, which suggests that they need to be incredibly disciplined in terms of maintaining their high level of fitness and avoiding injury. It does mean, though, that their expertise is reliable, with the only (very minor) glitches involved in the opening night performance being in an ensemble scene involving complex interchanges with multiple skipping ropes where a couple of marks were missed.
Individual stand-outs included dancer Marie Pandora, who has a magnetic stage presence; contortionist Nicole Winter, who makes her outlandish shape-shifting charming rather than bizarre; and James Eddie Crane, who spends a good deal of time in the air, either using “power stilts” or when casually somersaulting back to his perch between bounces in the climactic trampolining scene.
This is theatre that engages, first and foremost, the adrenal glands. If you’re after a relaxing night out, look elsewhere.