Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Big Top Bits: Brit Critix Toast Cirque's Totem, Rue Thrill-Neutering Life Lines ... Circus of Horrors Goes for the Gut, Perilously Penile! ...


First Draft Digs: Cirque du Soliel's Native-American informed Totem at Albert Hall (whatever happened to the sainted tent?) tickling London critics, here a rave, there a loved you a lot --but. The "Overarching plot," reportedly a parable about Darwinian evolution barely understood by the circus-entranced, thought by the thinking to trace "man's journey from the very beginnings of life on Earth to our ultimate desire to fly" (how novel). Wall Street Journal, handing kudos to famed Canadian director Robert Lepage, this his second outing for the Montreal monster, declaring the riveting result "almost beyond praise ... certainly defies description." Hoop dancing, roller skating, Chinese juggling atop unicycles, and Russian bars, among other strong staples, landing persuasive praise ...

But, away from the buzz-happy Cirque seduced, empty seats noted on opening night, and critical equivocations accompany the acclaim. WSJ issuing a not surprising reservation, labeling the clowns "unfunny." Another review, this one in The Londonist, though rousingly affirmative ("amazing"), ruing the conspicuous sight of safety wires, and, correctly so, assessing their dampening effect on potential excitement: "The obvious ropes diminish the stunt's impact, especially as the trapeze performers go without." (I say either a net under everyone or giant full body condoms that self-inflate upon unscripted falls.) ... Totem totes steamy lust over the sawdust, sayz, The Londonist, noting, "Two yellow-colored gymnasts (canaries?) make the most sexually charged use of a high trapeze we've seen in some time."

Okay, safety wires leave you restless, unsatisifed? Then try another tent currently tricking its way across Britland, one perilous penile stretch at a time. This would be Circus of Horrors, the show that has a woman standing on one hand firing off a bow and arrow with her feet while puffing away on a cigarette . Shocking insensitivity to modern etiquette and self-control? Now, stay with me on this kinky corner for a moment. You see, there lurks a payoff; the pushy ringmaster, who has been warning customers not to smoke, gets himself blown up by those vindictive little perverted puffers. "Smoking kills" Ah, yes, a Big Message! So let's all calm down, but not those uppity townships resisting the bit, requiring Circus of Horrors to file a "risk assessment for performers smoking on stage." ... Oh, how far our Darwinian brains have advanced ... "We don't have safety harnesses," says ringmaster John Haze. "What you see is what you get." How refreshingly retro ...

Compared to more notorious horror pics, this photo offers hope for salvation

Now, onto the dwarf who drags a vacuum cleaner attached to his -- yes, little midget thing, across the stage. Yuck! Why am I even writing about such sordid nonsense? Blame it on cyber courier Don of Covington. Ok, give me the rap; I don't have to wallow in it, do I? But I must, true to my ersatz journalistic/Hedda Hopper calling, fearlessly tabloid ahead. Something about super glue needed to repair the Hoover gadget (hoover as in dust sucker). What follows is not for the faint of heart: Midget misreading the instructions, thinking the repaired surface needing to be left to dry for only 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes, then compromising at two minutes before "trying it out and inserting his" you know what. "We had to carry him into the A&E" said Haze. I can't go on! This makes Circus Oz look like a kid-friendly division of Feld Entertainment. Maybe I'm now ready to face Cirque Berzerk down there in L.A. when I taste the town in a few sunnier weeks.

Just a good old average riot: Big Apple Circus, forever entranced with questionable tie-ins to low life singers and twangers that do not, may I suggest, suit its Grandma branding, lending use of its tent in Damrosch Park to NY city punk-rock concert called "Rock N' Roll Circus," which it co- produced. Iffy move. A thousand fans on Monday night, only three song grunges into the program, rushed the stage, surfing over each other to reach I imagine gangsta skin. That was it. They raided Rock N' Roll Cicus, proud put-upon punks being sent home, or back to their drug-dealing gigs ...

Speaking of Grandma, let's speak of Russia's great Oleg Popov, the clown holding Monte Carlo gold still clowning around at the age of 80, and believing he will draw laughter up until his last dying breath, that "God will call him from his dressing room or the ring," says Willem Smitt, director of the Great Russian State Circus, with whom Popov is currently performing. He still logs about 200 performances a year, mostly in Germany, where he lives with his 49-year-old wife, Gabriela. Every birthday, he gets a phone call from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. May one of our great clowns get his wish, following in the footsteps of another wonderful Russian jester, Karandash, living out his last days bringing joy, giggles and guffaws to the better child inside us all.

1.8.11

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