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Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Piccadilly Circus Circus – review
 
Blizzard … a scene from Place des Anges at Piccadilly Circus Circus. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
Lyn Gardner
guardian.co.uk,
Monday 3 September 2012
Angels paid London an unannounced visit last night. As dusk fell over the city, a pink flare was lit on top of the old HMV building, and a strange feathered creature carrying a small suitcase edged down a zipwire in a flurry of feathers. Soon it was joined by a band of glittering winged figures high above the crowd. As more angels arrived, the statue of Eros appeared to be taking aim at them with his bow. Feather fights erupted in the sky. At first the feathers fell like thick flakes of snow; the flurries became a blizzard, all but obliterating the neon signs. A familiar landscape was suddenly rendered strange.
Performers soar more than 30 metres over the audience on zip wires
Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
This was Place des Anges, a performance created by Stéphane Girard and the late Pierrot Bidon, the founder of the innovative circus group Archaos for the French company Les Studios de Cirque. It was the climax of a remarkable day of performances as part of the London 2012 festival, which wittily transformed Piccadilly Circus and the surrounding streets into a real circus.

Acrojou Circus Theatre perform on the streets of central London
Photograph: Matt Grayson/PA
With 247 international circus artists from 17 different nations performing across 12 stages, and curated by Crying Out Loud with genuine flair, it was a day of spills and thrills, tongue-in-cheek humour and gravely serious gravity-defying feats. The traffic was stopped, shopping paused, and the angels disappeared as mysteriously as they had arrived.

Circus performers in Piccadilly Circus
Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images
In Piccadilly, a man on a sway pole, two stories high, flipped on his hands, and hula-hooped with his feet; in Waterloo Place, the aerialists of another French group, Cirkvost, clambered like busy workers in a mysterious Victorian factory over a circular steel rig, their endeavour at odds with the cool classical architecture. Over on Regent Street, a tiny figure – framed between two massive stone columns – swung on a rope. She brought a touch of humanity to the grandiose buildings, as if trying to defy their unyielding grandeur with her extraordinary fluid grace.
 
The day culminated at sunset with a dramatic aerial finale. French performers Les Studios de Cirque spread their feathers
Photograph: Ray Tang/Rex Features
If Place des Anges itself was lightweight in conception and somewhat heavy on the feathers (all 1.5 tonnes of them), overall the day did its job quite brilliantly – unexpectedly redefining the relationship of people to the city. It felt like London had been given permission to play.

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