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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Le Grand Cirque - big cirque's little cousin

Reviewed by Jordan Beth Vincent, January 1, 2011
Australian tour comes to Perth in April, 2011
Cirque du Soleil has positively ruined the circus for me. It has raised my expectations to unrealistic heights. I want a seamless, faultless and effortless circus experience. I yearn to see death-defying acts, be swept away in a mystical storyline and hear those quasi-French accents.
And so, from this spoilt vantage point, Le Grand Cirque, now on tour in Australia, is like a little cousin with delusions of grandeur. Sure, the quasi-French accent makes an appearance thanks to lead clown Salvador Salangsang, with Charlotte Davies' costume design reputedly inspired by dragons, spirits and magical horses. But let's be honest - with regular tours by Cirque du Soleil, truly exemplary performances by Circus Oz and a talented group of local performers, there is no shortage of quality circus acts to satisfy audiences. Le Grand Cirque does have some good things going for it. A solo act by Australian Julian Aldag on the vertical rope is beautiful. His skill and strength is allowed full expression on a quiet stage, unhampered by the masses of sequined dancers and acrobats that clutter many of the show's other acts.
Two acrobats are exciting as they run circles through a massive spinning hamster wheel, which is referred to (hopefully) facetiously as the ''Wheel of Death''. On the opening night in Melbourne, one performer brushed the top of the Regent's proscenium arch and nearly lost his balance. Regardless of whether his wobbles were a ploy to shock a captive audience, I was thankful to not be in the front row.
Patrons willing to brave the close proximity to the Wheel of Death must also risk Salangsang's clowning antics, which rely heavily on audience participation. His ''balloon boy'' routine is clever and amusing, allowing us to almost forgive his humiliation of more than one good-natured guinea pig.
With its soundtrack featuring techno Tchaikovsky and an array of tacky outfits on display (one-legged sparkly unitards are never an easy look to pull off), Le Grand Cirque packs plenty of razzle-dazzle. It is generally entertaining and fun, sometimes funny and often impressive - everything you might expect from a cirque.

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