love and fist fights on planet circus

June 23, 2008

I am continually struck by the irony of finding myself in a show which is dangerously close, to what is without doubt my least favourite form of theatre in the universe; that of the ‘feel good about the sixties!’, ‘call back the good times!’ type of musical compilation show. ‘Lets remind ourselves how good the eighties were, so we can forget about how miserable we are today!’ ‘Come and spend a few hours where we can forget our troubles and just have a good time!’  and (more importantly) ‘forget how, with a little effort, we could change these miserable circumstances of our lives’.

I think, (he said with just a hint of pomposity lurking at the edges of his tone), it’s an abomination, this notion of theatre used a means of escape. When in fact it is through the imagination, which is the playground of theatre, and even more importantly, humour, that one can be drawn to consider the wonder and the horror of human existence and engage positively with one’s relationship to it. I know this is not a universal view of the entertainment industry but, as you can hear, it’s just my little thing, okay? When I hear some of the people in Cirque talking about LOVE, it is distressing to hear the old ‘people come and forget their troubles’ line. Because LOVE, I don’t think, does that. It doesn’t merely play the songs and remind us of the good times. It uses the music to evoke that time but it considers the music and the social and personal phenomenon of the Beatles in a way which brings to light the political, and social contexts in which they were created. In response to which they were created. Through theatrical, acrobatic and technical performance (and the wildly stimulated imagination) the show allows us to engage with the issues as they manifest in our lives now. The show beautifully contemporizes the lyrics, or rather it demonstrates the universality of the songs and the timelessness of the lyrics. When Lennon wrote Come Together, it was not just about free love and sexual liberation; this is a powerful political call which is as valid today.


But; LOVE is so popular because it attracts the ‘when I go to the theatre, and especially when I pay up to $200, I wanna have a good time’ type audience. It is definitely the safest Cirque ticket in town, what with the Cirque/Beatles combination, the risk is minimal because, ‘Hell everybody knows and loves The Beatles, right?.’ And ‘Cirque? Hey sometimes… you know, they’re a bit weird and you don’t follow the meaning and all that, but it’s spectacular! And the costumes! And the lighting! And the stages!! Very high on the Wow! Factor let me tell you…’ I hate that they come to LOVE to forget their troubles, but I love that they come…


So LOVE has the advantage of attracting an audience which allows us to avoid preaching to the converted. Clearly much of the audience does not believe that ‘All you Need is Love’. Witness how, in the middle of Here Comes the Sun, in which a beautiful, delicately choreographed acrobatic rope climbing sequence is performed by four gorgeous nubile gopis, hanging by their delicate fingers and toes, twenty metres above a lithe golden dancing Krishna, (and the audiences’ heads), a fist fight breaks out between two members of the audience in the front row. (For which they paid over $200. And who apparently didn’t even know each other). All you need is love and a knuckle duster.


Witness also how during animation when some of the characters go out and mingle with the audience in the foyer and chat and in a playful way perhaps help them to a drink or lead them to the wrong seat or have a piece of their popcorn… Well Jeff, who plays one of the Nowhere men, and is dressed in a violently purple suit and is clearly made up and part of the show, delicately takes a piece of popcorn from a tub owned by a well dressed forty-something female patron. And what does she do? She doesn’t say, “Excuse me I’d rather you didn’t do that.” Nor does she say “Hey, get your own popcorn.” Nor, even does she scream at him, “Don’t you touch my fucken popcorn!” She kicks him. Twice. In the face. Thankfully she is too clumsy and stupid, and he too quick for her to land her stiletto. But she is definitely someone who needs to see and hear this show. In fact perhaps she should have one of the larger sound speakers and the complimentary programme surgically inserted in her arse. With Love…

It’s like a church service for those who know all the songs in the hymn book and sing them enthusiastically but haven’t heard the message, or understood the meaning.


LOVE attempts to reclaim the call for love and peace for the 21st century. Let us recall the past, only in order to confront the future, to help understand the future or even the present. Tell the old stories, but tell them in such a way that people in the 21st century will hear them anew. Beatle-mania is updated and delivered with deft sleight of acrobatic hand, brave theatrical and dance choices and the perfectly timed bum-kick of circus, so that we can take another look at our lives today. But perhaps this is all in my little head and LOVE is just Cirque shakin’ it’s money maker… I like to think not.

3 Responses to “love and fist fights on planet circus”

  1. charlotte Says:

    Wow Andrew!Very interesting and I agree with lots of it. You will always get the ones who only want to feel good – that is how they approach life so they won’t want to be challenged at the theatre! I do like things that challenge me, especially as you say when there is humour to keep yourself from disappearing up ytour own arse XX

  2. Drew, fascinating insights. Keep them coming. i love the little pictures of cast & audience. And your feelings about theatre’s place/role.
    warm love

  3. Gabrielle Harris Says:

    Dear Mr Buckland
    I am wishing to contact you with regards to potential work at our facility. I work at SEA WORLD in Durban. Please contact me.

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