Machine de Cirque
Reviewed – 1st June 2022
“Machine de Cirque confounds the expectations of what circus should be”
June 2022 is off to a good start with the thoroughly delightful Machine de Cirque at the Peacock Theatre in Holborn. The Quebec company, billed as a circus that includes comedy, music, dance and acrobatics, dazzled an appreciative crowd full of adults and children last night, and left them wanting more. Machine de Cirque is yet another remarkable circus to emerge from Canada. And while they are entirely unlike Cirque du Soleil, they have connections to this company, as you would expect, and also to a part of the world that has a great circus institute, the Montreal National Circus School.
Machine de Cirque was founded in 2013 by Vincent Dubé, Raphaël Dubé, Yohann Trépanier, Ugo Dario, Maxim Laurin and Frédéric Lebrasseur. Of the original performers, Lebrasseur, as the Musician, is the only founder present on stage in this show, but the same frenetic energy—encompassing acrobatics, balletic routines and comic slapstick—is still present in abundance.
Director Vincent Dubé displays his engineering background in both the setting and the “machines” in use during the show. Performers Guillaume Larouche, Thibault Macé, Phillippe Dupuis, Samuel Hollis and Laurent Racicot are the team on stage for this run at the Peacock Theatre, each with their own circus speciality. But it quickly becomes apparent that teamwork is an essential part of making the whole show work. At any moment, the performers run on stage, or up and down the lighting tower, to assist routines that include bicycles, juggling clubs, trapeze, hoop diving, a teeter board—and towels. Without teamwork, someone, maybe all of them, are going to get hurt. There is a lot of split second timing to the routines that leave one breathless at the audacity, but somehow these guys manage to make it look like ballet as well. There is always one principal dancer, surrounded by his corps de ballet. When the corps de ballet takes over though—they can also be very funny, as well as graceful. These performers are natural clowns—without the outlandish clothing and the makeup.
The story is not all that important to the Machine de Cirque, but what story there is allegedly takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Here, five lonely guys are trying to make contact with other survivors with the help of strange machines they have cobbled together from the wreckage strewn across the stage. In fact, the set resembles nothing but a large building site, or possibly an unfinished theatre set, complete with lighting tower still in place, and some very dodgy electrics. But it doesn’t matter what the story is, because once the team gets going, you’ll be on the edge of your seat wondering how the performers manage to pull off their stunts without getting injured, or getting arrested for public indecency. The whole show is a mash up of circus acts that seem familiar at first glance, but with quirky twists that are completely original—and very Quebecois. The music reflects the just-in-time precision of the performers, and Frédéric Lebrasseur is forever pulling off some unlikely stunt of his own with his drums, or just about anything the performers throw his way, really. Add to that an ominous sound track that continually builds to the sound of storms and rain (with sound designed by René Talbot), and you have a show that is rich in both sound and visuals. In fact, the only thing that is decidedly un circus like in Machine de Cirque are the costumes. There is not a clown suit or a glittering leotard in sight. Instead, the costumes are industrial functional, designed to complement the athleticism of the performers, or, at the very least, not get in the way. Designed by Sébastien Dionne, they are admirably suited to the many different needs of this show.
This is a great evening’s entertainment—not just because of the skills of all those involved—but in the many ways Machine de Cirque confounds the expectations of what circus should be. Catch this show while you can, and add the company’s name to the list of Canadian artists that are “must see” when they come to your hometown.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Stéphane Bourgeois
Machine de Cirque
Peacock Theatre until 11th June
Other shows recently reviewed by Dominica: