I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sensuous experience of watching a circus show, and how reviews – coming generally from a theatrical tradition – usually privilege the conceptual meaning of a production over the sensational meanings written through our physiological responses. This is an attempt not to do that!
A big red, white ‘n’ blue tent sits in the corner of the park, surrounded by big American style trucks to match, all emblazoned with circus imagery for Uncle Sam’s Great American Circus. Don’t expect to see any real Americans, but do prepare yourself for a polished representation of what popular imagination says a circus should be.
Beautiful singing from Lil Rice and the compositions of Ollie Clark, which warm us with percussion-conjured cicadas, bullfrogs and buried tribal memories, are as enveloping as I remember. The shapes that appear between bodies and metal bands are as lushly developed, precisely positioned and technically impressive as I’d hoped.
Inside the art warehouse space of the Invisible Wind Factory, the smell of incense, free glitter and revolving ceiling decor have already set the scene for the height of Bruno & Sandy’s seventies splendour. Glinting racks of sequinned costumes and gold discs onstage fit right in, as big seventies voices sing slow-dance songs that give way to applause for the pair’s entrance.
Last time I saw circus mixed with flapper era razzle-dazzle and golden-age Hollywood themes, it was in the Broadway musical debut of Cirque Du Soleil, Paramour. Now, Gostinitsa – the outstanding new show from Moscow State Circus – takes the same glamorous aesthetic but eschews attempts at plot, setting its high-skill acts within the comings and goings of a fantasy hotel.