Ever since I bought the soundtrack ten years or so ago and it had been running in endless loops on my iPod when it was still fresh, Cirque du Soleil‘s «O» (or just O as they use it now after modernizing the branding like two or three years ago) has fascinated me. the music is easily one of the best for any Cirque production, given how it’s almost a symphony. Yet, on the other hand, this being a resident show in Las Vegas, info on it beyond a few promotional photos and clips was scarce and chances of me ever getting to see it were slim for obvious reasons.
Thanks to our friends at arte.tv that has now changed, as they had a recording of the show running on Wednesday evening. Yes, exactly that day when I was seeing the latest Star Wars, so this made for a busy and exhausting afternoon and evening that day. You can still grab it via their online mediatheque for a while if you care to give it a try. I’m definitely going to re-watch it at least once or twice despite its flaws. Flaws? There, I said it, so let’s elaborate.
The one and only Todd Kopriva had warned me about not having wrong expectations way back then in some dark age and now that I have seen the show, I totally get what he meant. the short version of it is, that it’s no doubt a technical feat, yet it never really connects with you. As far as I’m concerned, there are a few clear reasons for this.
Age. Yes, like it or not, it shows that this was conceived some time in the 1990s and while it remains impressive that it still runs after 20 years, it is more than ripe for a thorough overhaul or replacement with a follow-up show. Especially the stage design feels dated with no projections or video walls to speak off. even the lighting schemes feel simplistic and don’t exploit the possibilities that interaction with water might have offered.
The View. The enjoyment of this performance totally depends on where you are sitting. This is of course true for every show on some level, but here it is particularly critical. You really need to see the big picture, especially when the artists are immersed in the water. Of course this is only a negative sideeffect of the show not being very three-dimensional with regards to the stage interactions, which brings us to the next and probably most important point.
It’s about water, but then it’s not. What really bothered me was how little the potential of the water effects was actually used. It just felt weird that there are a number of acts where they somewhat desperately bring in “dry land” pieces for conventional contortionist performances and all that and the water-based acts themselves were rather hum-ho, mostly relying on some splashy stuff or the water acting as a replacement for the usual safety nets.
So for the most part I was simply underwhelmed. Of course all of this can be fixed, but will they do it? It would probably mean shutting down the theater for a while and redesigning everything as well as training new acts. If the people at the Cirque need input – I’m here for you. ;-) That said, of course I still wouldn’t object to seeing the show in its current state if my imaginary billionaire boyfriend took me to LV for honeymoon. no matter what, I’m still a sucker for all of this stuff and at the end of the day all the work that’s poured in such projects remains admirable.