BWW Review: OVO, Royal Albert Hall
It would be disingenuous to call Cirque du Soleil simply a circus. The Canadian performance group are world famous and synonymous with incredible feats of physical strength and endurance. Since 2005, over two million people have witnessed these displays at the Royal Albert Hall and now the company returns to London for the UK premiere of their show OVO.
OVO, meaning egg, is based on looking at the tiny ecosystem of colourful insects led by chief of the insects Master Filpo; a larger than life Gerald Regitschnig. A fly called The Foreigner, played with zippy energy by François-Guillaume Leblanc, appears with his egg. He quickly falls for the charms of The Ladybug (a vivacious Neiva Nascimento) and various sketches follow as she tries to resist his advances.
The plot is a little flimsy, but no one goes to see Cirque du Soleil for detailed storytelling. The little interludes between the performance acts serve as funny diversions, cleverly used often while the stagehands prepare the stage for the upcoming performers.
The performers use gestures, sound effects and a nonsense language of their own, which makes this a universally appealing show. It is very family friendly, with foot-tapping music, singing and gentle comedy in between astonishing acts, all performed in the round.
In a show full of such incredible performances, it is even more startling that some stand out so much. The show starts with a display of foot juggling by the Red Ants, as they play with giant kiwi slices and ears of corn. The accuracy and precision is awesome.
Appropriately for a show based on insects, many performers appear to be true invertebrates. Kyle Cragle's astonishing Dragonfly gives an staggering balancing display in and around the tendrils of a plant, twisting himself into shapes that defy belief.
In Web, the three Spiders scuttle and scurry in sinuous shapes. White Spider Ariunsanaa Bataa displays astounding levels of contortions, as she twists her body into positions that have to be seen to be believed. 2011 European Champion gymnast Alanna Baker is the Black Spider, paired nicely with Majorie Nantel's lithe and twisting Red Spider.
The Scarab Beetles perform an incredible aerial acrobatic act on tiny platforms high above the stage. Performers are thrown between platforms, which are six metres apart in a display of such precise accuracy that you can hear the audience holding its breath.
The finale is a jaw-dropping performance by the acrobatic Crickets, who run, jump and leap up an eight metre high wall, while the spiders scuttle and seemingly stick to the wall as they perform the splits while holding on with only one hand.
Writer and director Deborah Colker does a masterful job in combining the wonder of the circus acts with very realistic and natural behaviour from the insects. The spiders scuttle, the crickets suddenly jump and the butterflies elegantly flutter.
The show looks beautiful, not just due to the performances, but also the creative graphic backgrounds projected behind the stage and the fantastic costumes. Sergyi Rysenko's Creatura is a flexible delight, with an amazing costume seemingly made with compressed Slinky toys for arms and legs. The bright-green Crickets in particular look wonderfully realistic and the Butterfly contorting in their silky cocoon is visually stunning.
Do not come to the show expecting to see detailed narrative, but as a piece of performance theatre, it is virtually flawless and a joy to watch.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil