Per­for­mances teem with life

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS -

AN army of in­sects is in­fil­trat­ing Aus­tralia but these ones you won’t want to erad­i­cate. La­dy­bugs, crick­ets and scarab bee­tles are among the crit­ters that have im­mi­grated with renowned per­form­ing troupe Cirque du Soleil, and they’re all in­ter­ested in one thing – an egg.

This egg has been in­tro­duced to their world by a for­eign fly in the lat­est Cirque show to open in Aus­tralia.

The show OVO, which means egg in Por­tuguese, por­trays a day in the life of in­sects.

The three main char­ac­ters are a volup­tuous ladybug, a bright green bee­tle and the spiky blue fly that car­ries the huge egg.

For the in­sects, the egg rep­re­sents food, love, re­pro­duc­tion and life, and it trig­gers cu­rios­ity among them.

OVO has al­ready been tour­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally for three-and-a-half years af­ter pre­mier­ing in Montreal, Canada, in May 2009.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor of OVO, Mar­jon Van Grunsven, from Hol­land, says dur­ing the early stages of the pro­duc­tion the cast would watch films and visit in­sec­tar­i­ums to learn how in­sects move.

Be­cause of the vari­a­tion of char­ac­ters, Van Grunsven, 40, doesn’t put a la­bel on the per­form­ers’ style, in­stead de­scrib­ing the move­ments as eclec­tic.

‘‘If you take our but­ter­flies, it’s a won­der­ful love duo that is done by this duo in the air on a rope,’’ she says.

‘‘They’re very lyri­cal, they’re very beau­ti­ful and soft and ten­der and they’re in love.

‘‘But then if you take a cricket, they’re jump­ing three times their own height, and they’re tram­polin­ists and they move dif­fer­ently, so they’re more sharp in their an­gles. ‘‘Or if you take a scarab, they’re sup­posed to be our war­riors, they pro­tect the community of in­sects . . . when they come out on stage you go ‘oh my god, they’re scary’.’’

At the start of the pro­duc­tion, Van Grunsven says the artists were re­ally young in their per­form­ing abil­i­ties, de­spite be­ing ac­ro­batic stars.

‘‘The per­form­ing artis­tic abil­i­ties had to grow, we had to work with that and still do ev­ery day – we re­mind them ‘hey, you’re not a per­son, you’re an in­sect’.’’

There are 54 artists and 12 artis­tic staff work­ing on OVO, with 126 peo­ple in­volved in the show al­to­gether.

Among the 54 artists there are 16 na­tion­al­i­ties, some­thing Van Grunsven ap­pre­ci­ates.

‘‘I love the va­ri­ety of things,’’ she says of Cirque. ‘

‘I love the va­ri­ety of the na­tion­al­i­ties within the cast and the teams you’re work­ing with; I love the in­cred­i­ble ex­cel­lence of each per­for­mance ev­ery day.’’

There are eight to 10 shows a week and Van Grunsven says by watch­ing au­di­ence re­ac­tion over­seas she has found OVO is liked by young and old.

‘‘I can’t wait to see the Aus­tralian au­di­ence . . . be­cause it’s re­ally an ex­change be­tween the au­di­ence and the cast and ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pen­ing . . . it doesn’t de­pend on the au­di­ence but it’s great when there’s a chem­istry be­tween the two.’’

Van Grunsven has been tour­ing with Cirque since April 2007, and has been on the road work­ing as a con­tem­po­rary jazz dancer and chore­og­ra­pher since she was 19 years old.

Her role with OVO is to watch the shows and de­cide whether they can be im­proved or whether some­thing needs to be ‘‘shaved’’ to keep them fresh.

‘‘It’s an on­go­ing, very cre­ative process where we keep chal­leng­ing each other and our­selves ev­ery day to put the best prod­uct on the stage,’’ she says.

That prod­uct in­cludes the fan­tas­tic cos­tumes, cre­ated by Liz Van­dal, from Montreal. Along with the afore­men­tioned in­sects, Van­dal cre­ated spi­der, flea and ant cos­tumes, and while do­ing so came across hur­dles.

‘‘She started draw­ing and we looked at the draw­ings and we’re like, ‘OK, this is great, let’s try this’,’’ Van Grunsven says, ‘‘and then you put a cos­tume on a per­former that has to do a triple sal­chow off a 20-foot wall and, ‘Ah, OK, so that doesn’t work’.

‘‘So then you have to ad­just it and you have to keep ad­just­ing un­til it’s per­fect.’’

Cirque du Soleil’s plays Bris­bane un­til Septem­ber 2.

Some of the stars of

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