Before there was cinema, there was the circus. During the 19th century, PT Barnum created the Greatest Show on Earth, stretching the public’s understandings of human achievement with acrobats and freaks, and of course, entertaining them with clowns. Then the advent of moving image and sound took the senses and imagination into even wilder terrains. Live theater, including circuses, have never had the same lustre.
So how ironic that one of the biggest buzzes in Hollywood is the arrival of Iris (pronounced the French way, ee-ris), the first resident production of Montreal circus powerhouse Cirque du Soleil. Iris is a tribute to the cinema, housed, appropriately, at the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars. Yesterday Cirque offered a sneak peek for press and lucky fans. Iris revels in trademark Cirque attributes: phantasmagoric sets and psychedelic costumes, beautiful and athletic movement, confusing and seemingly mythic narratives. The show, written and directed by Philippe Decoufle, offers an extra bonus: Original music by veteran soundscore artist Danny Elfman.
A woman cavorted in an oscilloscope as a hoop skirt and people wore projector headpieces. The set relied heavily and appropriately on projections. The tribute to caper films was kinetic and madcap, with thugs running and falling across a breathtaking set of New York rooftops. Most stunning was a duet between two twinlike acrobats, who writhed and swung on ropes out over the heads of the audience. I have no idea what the trapeze-like dance had to do with movies, but I quibble.
Here’s a couple videos I shot on my iPhone from the front row. I predict a hit. The location — in the middle of touristville — is perfect, and it’s Cirque!