Cirque du Soleil
The Grand Chapiteau, Docklands
January 17 - March 24
Ovo takes us into a bug’s paradise, where tropical flowers unfurl at the touch of a grasshopper, insects fall from the sky, and all of the creeping, crawling inhabitants are as tall as you and I. This is perhaps more Honey, I Shrunk the Kids than David Attenborough, with enough fantasy and magic to carry us from contorting spiders through to flipping crickets and diving scarabs.
An “ovo” (egg) is the treasure introduced to this community by the Foreigner (Barthélémy Glumineau). He is a goofy, awkward and unidentifiable species of insect, and his love affair with a buxom Ladybug (Michelle Matlock) is the comedic narrative that drives the show from start to finish.
The Foreigner is coached in his flirting skills by Master Flippo (Simon Bradbury), a beetle-like character with more than a passing similarity to Danny DeVito. The clowning antics of this trio are amusing, particularly when they are helped along by enthusiastic audience participation.
Highlights include Li Wei as a Spiderman who scampers from one end of a slack tightrope to the other, ending his performance with a hands-free headstand several metres off the ground - and a cheeky grin.
Both of the big aerial numbers - the Crickets and Flying Scarabs - are exhilarating to watch, as large groups of performers use trampolines, trapeze swings and nets to hurl themselves through the air in elaborate displays of airborne acrobatics.
An enormous climbing wall serves as both a canvas for a redback spider to stalk her prey and the launching pad for the flying insects.
Writer, director and choreographer Deborah Colker excels in layering the action onstage, with various creatures always moving in the shadows to give a sense of life and movement to the set without drawing too much attention from the main act.
This kind of staging - as well as the carefully choreographed set changes and the particular type of characters we see onstage in Ovo - are trademark Cirque du Soleil and part of a formula that has succeeded spectacularly over the past three decades. However, it might be time to update the music (synthesizers, vocals and the occasional accordion) as well as rethink some of the seriously daggy dance moves.
Overall, Ovo is spectacular and exciting in its imagination and artistry, and it is well worth buzzing over to the Grand Chapiteau at Docklands to check it out.