The sound of a single piano note that builds with clarinet sounds and eventually some live saxophone playing sets an enticing tone for La Galerie from Quebec’s Machine de Cirque. But what follows holds less excitement than these opening notes despite the creation of a unique piece of Pollockesque art live on stage.
A set of six suited and soft-shoed hipster gents, with one solitary woman, lightly cavort as they create acrobatic shapes before peering as one with intense curiosity at the audience, who are presumably meant to be one of the artworks in the imaginary gallery where the show takes place.
Order descends to chaos as the troupe acts out the dynamics of queuing with the help of some flexible barricades. A set of white cuboids serve as moveable props for the contrived and esoteric storyline that uses an odd mélange of language (Freutsch?) and becomes increasingly strange as the hour ticks on. For example, eating popcorn from the floor at every opportunity is mildly funny at first, but not as a running joke.
The group’s undeniable skills seem wasted in this frankly bizarre background narrative. The show’s rather pretentious backdrop means that La Galerie lacks the raw grit and glamour of contemporary big top circus like Cardiff’s NoFitState, misses the sophisticated narrative produced by Cirque du Soleil and has none of the glitz and sassiness of the likes of La Clique.
A circus without sequins can be radical and refreshing, yet the series of albeit accomplished feats on springboard towards the end manages to feel like witnessing a final rehearsal rather than a polished show.
La Galerie incorporates an array of traditional circus skills such as juggling, acrobatics, balancing, tumbling, springboard work and gyroscope, all carried out to a highly expert level. Like in a traditional circus, each feat receives applause, and indeed, an almost unanimous standing ovation at the end.