For someone slowly becoming enamored with living in an American metropolis, it was all too fitting that Saltimbanco should come to Massachusetts. The earliest traveling installment of Circ du Soleil, it counters the violence of modern times by reviving joy in the simple fact of life.
Becoming something of an *unintentional* cirque connoisseur, (this was my fifth show), it’s refreshing to see the accessibility of one of the greater performances of living art available to the masses by way of temporary staging in arenas throughout North and South America.
As always, the performers were impeccable. Exercising astounding athletic prowess, while gracefully fulfilling their respective roles in the wider make up of the human circus, they conquered the arena by way of humor, drama, and emotion. From featherlight trapeze artists to muscular men showing amazing strength, and the ever present clowns who punctuated the story by kidnapping audience members and entertaining thousands of people only through sound effects.
But it is responsible branding to perpetuate a ‘traveling circus’ for largely uninitiated audiences with an end result that doesn’t measure up to the resident models?
Saltimbanco was entertaining. It was funny, it was sad in a mocking way: and yet, it ultimately didn’t compare to shows under the same moniker that have the advantage of a permanent stage. If O is the bar by which all Cirque du Soleil productions should be judged (and as the original flagship production in Las Vegas, the home of all things cirque, that isn’t too far out of the question), Saltimbanco falls flat.
With permanent facilities built specifically to enhance the performers in the most flattering ways possible, including underwater segments and other such physical addendums, O represents the gold standard – an effortless mixture of humor, talent, and drama. (Saltimbanco is a little heavy on the clown/fillers between actual circus acts, yet simultaneously fails to bring its attempt at a coherent narrative to fruition). While O reeks of history and tradition, Love utilizes the timeless melodies of the Beatles to complete it’s advantage, and (the currently innactive) Le Reve adds an entirely different type of talent with large portions of the performance taking place under water; Saltimbanco doesn’t quite have a hook. Altogether following the original formula of amazing performers with unique skill sets, (who are, for clarifying purposes no less brilliant then their counterparts who have the permanent stage advantage), the weakness lies entirely in the production side, in this case the storyline (or lack there of), and subtly fails to live up to the standards expected by the name Circ du Soleil. As an audience member walking away at the end of the night, I could cherry pick specific bits of the puzzle I found particularly enticing, but wouldn’t quite know how to paint the entire picture – Saltimbanco didn’t succeed in delivering any definitive message.
While the original version ended in Brazil in 2006, the new adaptation has been on the road for the past five years. The redeeming factor, however, lies in the truth of the situation: It largely targets audiences who have never seen a cirque production before, who will likewise probably never know what they are missing.
But all things aside, was it still worth it? Absolutely! It just gives a…different kind of circus.☼