Norwich has seen a wide variety of circus visits and performances recently and we are lucky to host an excellent circus training venue. Nationwide there are celebrations of the 250 years since the creation of what we now understand as circus.

While the big top is the perfect and traditional venue for circus displays they are costly to erect and maintain and need a lot of space in a park or open space, so circus companies that can work on a theatre stage find a warm welcome at Norwich Theatre Royal.  Some work better than others, I am not a fan of having smelly motors and burning stunts within the theatre auditorium, but the best circus show I have seen for a long time graced the Theatre Royal stage this week.

Cirque Éloize hail from Montreal in Canada and brought their superb Cirkopolis show to Norwich setting a new high standard for other circus companies to aim for.  The eleven artists we saw on Saturday all showed tremendous circus skills and achievement, set in a well produced and directed cohesive show that was stylish and elegant as it was impressive.  The context and set design is drawn from the classic film Metropolis and is themed around the office worker’s dreams and wishes to escape from the restraints of commercial drudgery.

Some circus shows attempt to bring in theatre, dance and acting skills but do not really succeed, whereas Cirque Éloize have built a delightful and elegant show around the skills of their performers.  They are beautifully costumed and all look as though they really enjoy what they are doing.  The young cast are fizzing with energy and even relaxing after the show in the theatre bar they were still trying out different moves and steps.

The show is set around one central character, played by Dominique Bouchard, and his dreams of escaping office tedium and maybe even finding a nice girl to flirt with.  He brings pathos and humour to his role while also possessing superb timing skills. With others he helps to create amusing and diverting moments as we transition from one act to another, creating a seamless show that does not need an old style ringmaster or Master of Ceremonies to introduce each circus skill.

All of the artists are highly skilled and at the top of their game, but a few stood out.  Arata Urawa takes traditional diablo skills to a new level of speed and showmanship, while also being a rather capable tumbler too.  Anna Lewandowska is very good on both single and double Cyr Wheels and very impressive on the trapeze.  Klaudyna Dabkiewicz adds some contortionist skills to her wide range of abilities, giving the audience many gasps of surprise at her capabilities.

Cirque Éloize are touring a small number of European venues so if you missed their excellent Norwich shows you might need to hop on a bus to catch them in Karlsruhe, Corbeil-Essones or a one or two other towns and cities across Europe. They are definitely worth the journey!

© Julian Swainson 2018