Cirkopolis opens on a lone figure sitting at a desk, back to the audience, stamping a pile of documents that only gets bigger as his superiors bring more to add to his workload. It’s a far cry from the ringside glamour that some might expect from a circus show but it becomes clear that Cirque Éloize don’t want this to be like any other circus.
Our rebellious hero, clearly bored of his nine-to-five existence, uses two piles of paper and a desk lamp to create the shadows of two tall buildings. The shadows quickly blend and change into an animated cityscape projected on to a large backdrop. This backdrop, and the animations that are projected on to it, are key in giving Cirkopolis its aesthetic; the buildings, cogs and wheels have clear roots in German Expressionism and are evidence of the part Fritz Lang’s Metropolis played in inspiring the show.
With this shift in setting, a group of circus performers invade our hero’s space. As he hides under his desk, they use the surface as a platform for performing hand–to-hand acrobatics. It’s an exciting introduction to the cast and the fact that Cirque Éloize require performers to be multidisciplinary is evident in the strong ensemble.
As strong as they are together, it is the solo and partner performances that give the show its special moments. Léa Toran Jenner is mesmerising on the Cyr, a large metal hoop with the acrobat spinning in the centre. Set to a beautifully simple vocal piece, Toran Jenner dances effortlessly in the wheel and brought an entire auditorium to captivated silence.
Alongside moments of strength and beauty, Cirkopolis also has humour. Our hero, Ashley Carr, excels as the clown of the piece, bringing together moments of emotion (involving a dance with a dress on a coat-hanger) and traditional slapstick performance.
The circus performances in Cirkopolis are flawless; the cast are strong, daring and extremely likeable. This, combined with the video backdrop and the moving score, creates a truly compelling piece of modern circus.