Le Grande Cirque – Tres Bien!

Wow. Where to begin! Le Grande Cirque’s show, Adrenaline, has to be seen to be believed really. Having heard mixed reviews from various sources, I wasn’t expecting much more than the traditional ‘ta da!’ style of acro-circus, punctuated with predictable applause and maybe some juggling.

I’d also heard there was something involving motorbikes. A radio review from one family said their kids loved it, so I was almost expecting a watered down kid-friendly variety hour with a motorbike stunt show featuring all the artistic appeal of truck-a-saurus.

Pessimism has its advantages, as it allows you to be completely surprised and delighted from time to time. This was a brilliant show: incredibly high energy, well paced, with some of the most elite physical performers I’ve seen ever. Including the Olympics.

There were multiple moments throughout the show where the whole audience could not help but gasp in amazement or almost-slipped-and-died terror. I caught myself exclaiming, ‘That’s impossible!’ and possibly swearing with astonishment numerous times, and overall having a bloody good time.

Technically, the show was truly remarkable. Each display of physical mastery warranted and received tumultuous applause, and in that sense the show did take itself quite seriously.

I’m a massive fan of Brisbane’s local circus scene, particularly the performers from Briefs, and have become used to the very spontaneous and interactive style of their shows. So I guess it was a bit of a change for me to see a circus show where the fourth wall was well and truly intact.

Apart from some light-hearted ‘let’s embarrass some audience members’ bits between acts, there wasn’t much room for audience interaction. In saying that though, there didn’t really need to be. This was a series of incredible physical performances that really did deserve their ‘ta da!’ moment and applause at the end.

Musically and stylistically I was a little unsure of what angle the show was taking. There were some incredibly cheesy musical motifs straight from 1985, and some of the costumes were also very ’80s.

In this aesthetic there was plenty of room for the performers to add some tongue-in-cheek attitude, perhaps along the lines of David Hasselhoff, which could have been the icing on the cake, and could have explained the tacky music. Could have. But they weren’t actually joking it seemed, so in this respect I was left a little perplexed.

I had the pleasure of attending the show with the incomparable Leigh Buchanan, who was kind enough to give me his thoughts on the show at interval:

Photo by Andrew Curnock

“It’s like David Copperfield ate a whole truckload of clowns and vomited them on stage. I can not wait for Celine Dion in the second half.”


From a style perspective, she wouldn’t have been too out of place.

The Master of Ceremonies role was filled by an incredibly talented clown, whose people skills, physical prowess, expressiveness, and entertainment value were truly commendable on their own.

To give you a rough overview of my personal interpretation of the show’s rhythm, it went a little something like this: make some noise, laugh, be inspired, be awestruck, laugh, be impressed, be distracted, be impressed again, be amazed, laugh again, laugh and be impressed at the same time, followed by some more combinations of be impressed, amazed, and entertained, rinse and repeat.

There wasn’t much in the way of existential pondering or introspective arty stuff, so if you’re into that kind of thing, the opening act with the contortionist on the aerial hoop was about it.

Overall the show really did have something for everyone. There was beauty, poise, strength, extreme balance, physical comedy, contortions, and extreme physics with motorbikes. What more could you want?


[Originally Posted on Critial Mass Arts Blog]

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