Cirkus Cirkor: Limits review
So Cirkus Cirkor is in town! “Limits” premiered at BAM last night and I found it to be solid. Excellent aerial acts, great teeterboard, not so hot adagio and handbalancing and interlude acts, but I’m glad I saw it. I won’t go into too much depth here, but here’s what stood out to me the most:
Message. Limits is about the refugee crisis. Straight up, no question about it, very obvious story and intent and message. And I really liked that. After Les 7 doigts de la main’s Cuisine & Confessions and a presentation I saw by Barely Methodical Troupe last year, I’ve enjoyed the idea of circus that doesn’t shrink away from tougher subjects. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the “art” in “circus arts” doesn’t need to be just beautiful. It can be provocative, it can make you uncomfortable, and it can shed light on perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Cirkus Cirkor, being a Swedish company, has very different insights into the refugee crisis than the average American audience member, and that was touching. I felt like an outsider, but one that was invited into their perspective. I’m sure European audiences had a different response in this way, and I’m glad the show wasn’t retooled for an American audience. They directly address Europeans often, and it’s a powerful sentiment. (And u kno we Americans get called out too, as we rightfully deserve.)
At times it did feel a little heavy-handed (there’s a pretty long opening number involving a ladder that’s a visual stand-in for a wall, they climb over it, etc), but for the most part I was okay with it. The friends I was with took a different stance, and I heard some comments like, “People who go to the circus don’t need to be told these things, they already know.” “Okay, but what are they actually doing? Are they donating any money? What’s the point?” I found these comments way out of place. Art is about sending a message, and sometimes that’s enough. They don’t visit the Guggenheim and wonder why their ticket revenue goes to the artist and museum rather than some greater purpose – they go to see something, learn something, gain a new perspective. Limits accomplishes that, and I came away wanting to see more of that going forward. It’s the perfect medium. Give me more political circus!
Set. There were some very cool set elements in the works here. Fabric was used to incredible effect, whether it was used as a backdrop, sheet, or in the form of clothing. In fact there was a lot of clothing used as set decorations or props, and to me it looked a lot like they were saying something about excess. It sounds strange, but seeing clothing strung up and repurposed that way had a discomforting effect – you couldn’t look away from the wastefulness. There was great projection use as well, particularly in the opening. One of the most powerful images comes at the end when a massive clothesline is pulled outward from the center of the stage, all red and gold and looping, and you can’t help but feel like they’re the real, visceral “insides” of the show and the performers. It’s a beautiful, raw image.
Music. Samuel “Looptok” Andersson is weird and awesome. He was prominently featured throughout the show and I absolutely LOVED IT. His sound is mostly electronic with a dash of throat singing, classical violin, and total mastery of a loop pedal. You can listen to what I think is the whole show here and I promise it won’t disappoint. It’s strange but it’s GREAT. I’m gonna check out the rest of his work, too.
Acts. Highlights were lyra, static trapeze, corde lisse (PERFORMED IN A GIANT PLASTIC BAG, I promise it’s cool), and teeterboard.
Summary. see it! It might be a little much for some people, and at times it was a little over the top even for me, but I really enjoyed it. I hope this trend of more political circus in the mainstream continues.