Photo: Maria Marchal Photography.
CirqueLouis: The Circus Show
Direction & Design Jordan Clark
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Over the last few years that I have been watching, CirqueLouis has transitioned away from traditional narratives such as European fairy tales and Shakespeare, shows in which circus arts were employed to realize a theatrical concept, to programs that feature a variety of skills and apparatus. With The Circus Show, Artistic Director Jordan Clark reintroduces story in limited terms, providing context for the routines based on one of the oldest stereotypes surrounding the place of circus in society.
People may no longer daydream about wrapping up a few belongings to run away and join the Big Top, but the mystery and romance of the notion are conjured here with the addition of narration and songs sung by Myranda Thomas and live accompaniment from cellist Ben Sollee.
Although there is not a precise beginning, middle, or end to the story, the acts are sequenced to build momentum, with a passive prelude of a still female figure who infrequently changes position with some nice pairs work on the lollipop.
The Sunday matinee was a sensory-friendly performance, and this prelude occupied the twenty minutes between a Tactile Tour of the props and aerial apparatus and the start of the performance, which seemed to test the patience of some of the younger viewers in attendance, which obviously did not read the handy overview of the action provided for that circumstance.
For me, it served as a reminder that stillness can be impactful and even meaningful. It may seem idiosyncratic to imagine a circus without movement, but this is cirque, after all, and the rules are different.
Yet this show is an attempt to reconcile some of the traditional with the new forms. Plaintive bubble blowing is included, and some mimes executing one of the most classic bits with mirroring. How classic? Think The Marx Brothers and Lucille Ball. And there are some humbler if no less impressive practices like tumbling contortion.
But the air is where we must always go for a complete CirqueLouis experience, first with silks and traplyra, and following a graceful, juggling of white balls that appeared to be lighter-than-air, an impressive multiple person trapeze act that built to a trio.
All of this movement saves for a perilous drop or two is slow and methodical, bodies interacting with care and precision to achieve unity of purpose and expression. This is not the rapid-paced high-wire act of the Big Top, but the art of circus brought onto a level to which we can relate, accessibility that heightens its charm while reducing its death-defying artifice.
That level of engagement was perhaps most effectively expressed by Carter Webb in a pole routine that was a delightful blend of slapstick comedy and estimable, disciplined strength. It neatly combined the humor, daring, and magic of the whole evening.
There was one last, shoot-the-works exercise with multiple silks, two of which were poised almost above the heads of audience members, in which the spins take on the cast of a whirling dervish. Hearts may have not stopped, but a beat or two was surely skipped. Then we were pulled forcefully back to the ground by a trio of balance performers who make the strain and weight of their actions seem nearly effortless.
Featuring Jordan Clark, Zachary Haley, Lily Kaelin, Ashley Kennedy, Charlotte Kennedy, Lee Mai, Lisette Markham, Henry Marchal, Madeline Martin, Aydie Nase, Leighann Pusateri, Alyssa Schlimm, Laura Shahan, Abbie Springer, Annabelle Springer, Olivia, Storment, Elina Sulkowski, Asher Taylor-Dawson, Gracie Smithers, Myranda Thomas, Carter Webb, Cindi Wolf, Eva Wolf, & Mia Wolf. Special Guest Ben Sollee
The Circus Show
November 16 & 17, 2019
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.