So I went to see a performance of Saltimbanco by Cirque Du Soleil last night. It was held at Rod Laver Arena, a sure sign of a large audience. We were in seats that were upstairs and the extra seating added downstairs made the stage seem quite small. We started to watch the show without the assistance of a program so it seemed very abstract when the performers communicated in high-pitched squeaks, giggles and relied heavily on body language. The people in the more expensive floor seating were given more interaction with the performers with some being driven off their seats while the performers sat in them or when one member of the audience was separated from his shirt. Saltimbanco is based on traditional circus acts involving humans so what we mostly get is clowns, mimes, acrobats and trapeze artists. This is not the show you want to see if you prefer a narrative.
The bodysuit costumes worn by the performers in an array of different colours made them look like chameleons in my opinion apart from a couple with a fan robes that looked like birds. They did look a little bit like Teletubbies crossed with leprechauns. The synchronized dance choreography was quite spectacular as they moved in rhythm with the catchy beats. My favourite part of the show prior to the intermission was the Chinese Pole act. Several acrobats climbed up four poles on stage and performed jaw dropping, synchronized routines with amazing precision. Several times the acrobats dropped into free fall down the poles, heads hanging upside down but stopped just short of banging their heads on the floor. Then they swung off and joined the rest of the cast dancing around them. This should have been the opening or the finale though – not a midway act.
Then we are introduced to the clown again who treats us to some jokes involving noises. Patrons in floor seating are urged to join in. In one instance, the clown pretend swallows a ball and then we are treated to the prospect of him digesting it and what happens afterwards. I really was not a fan of the clown – too many fart gags. The bicycle act was in better taste with an acrobat riding it backwards and forwards and performing somersaults and hand stands on it while it moved. It was breathtaking to watch. Then next was a performance with some boleadoras where two performers were using them in a tandem tap dance. It was a cool sight but not up to par as what came in the second half of the show involving the trapeze acts.
After the intermission, we were treated to the skills of a juggler mounted on a set of mini stairs. He stepped up and down these while his juggling balls stayed in motion in the air. Then there was a solo trapeze act set to some melancholy music and it was amazing to see all the somersaults and backflips defying gravity executed. There was not even a safety net underneath! The Russian swing was another highlight where performers jettisoned off it to form a human ladder and then tumbled on to a mat. In addition, male twins playing the role of strong men created human sculptures as they lifted each other, sometimes balanced with only one arm, and posed in positions likely to give an ordinary person muscle sprains while another duo trapeze act took place above.
The clown then involved another patron in a mimicked gun duel and had him follow a lot of poses instructed to him that we even thought he might be a plant except for the fact he didn’t know the steps. To signal the end of the show, four trapeze artists climbed up to the highest point on the arena stage and faced each other. Then after being attached to harnesses like bungee jumping cords, they jump, flip in the air and link their hands. This sequence is repeated several times in time with the music. The timing by these acrobats is so precise which means they avoid things that look like close calls. But then that is probably why they belong in the big leagues as performers with Cirque Du Soleil.
Note: The performers in the videos may not be the performers on tour.