I expected too much (I know that's a mistake) from what I had seen on Internet (videos, photographs and some reviews) about Circus Orange's past productions and performances; when I was watching those videos I recalled the work of Tascabile di Bergamo (Italy), La Fura dels Baus (Spain), Noridan (Korea) and of course, Cirque du Soleil (Quebec) among others, sharing from my point of view many similar characteristics with them: the street, acrobatics, music, dance, theatrical subjects, etc. and I expected something like that and I was not wrong, The work of Circus Orange is very similar,... but at another level of quality.
This was the published order of acts to see that evening:
Sara Westbrook Sara Westbrook, Motivational Singer/Songwriter/Speaker, will have you clapping along while singing her upbeat tunes, including some holiday classics. Time 6:00pm
Free Laser Etching – Enjoy getting free laser etching Time 6:00 – 8:00pm
Circus Orange will bring in thrilling flame throwers who will do fire sets with various props.
Pyro Oil Drummers
Industrial oil drummers perched high above the Square will create an entrancing beat while illuminating pyrotechnics create dramatic silhouettes around them.
Flame Thrower Trampoline
A dramatic act where flame throwers are fired directly under an acrobatic trampolinist.
Tree Lighting Finale
Watch Circus Orange performers weave you through a path of fire and pyrotechnics until the 45 foot sculptural light tree goes off with a bang.
Once we arrived to Dundas Square, we felt a total disorganization, this was not Circus Orange's problem, of course, but it didn't help later to keep our attention as spectators. They started with some acrobatics using a trampoline, just as an introduction; simple and non spectacular jumps.
Then the singer, not from Circus Orange, but within the event. Absolutely out of place, boring as a result. Very difficult job for the girl.
The Circus Orange's spectacle re-started and continued with the same kind of acrobatic acts on the trampoline, this time with fire around and those barrel-drums music improvisations.
With a very low quality of jumps it was like seeing a gymnastic training, very little theatricality and very low technical difficulty. The musical improvisation was interesting but not spectacular, and the musicians, even while sitting on a very well illuminated roof, seemed to disappear in the immensity of the square, with not presence at all.
On the stage we saw two or three juggler acts, all with fire, and some pyrotechnics, dancers (also with torches) and as a final act a procession towards the Christmas tree. That procession was the most vivid moment, at least getting people to move to open way for the players.
The lighting was spectacular (as usual) but with a horrible choreography.
When the spectacle re-started after the singer's performance, many people were tired and wanted to leave, but they were there to see fire, acrobatics and the new Christmas tree illuminated, so they waited, and what did they see? Fire, acrobatics and the new Christmas Tree illuminated, that's was all. Circus Orange didn't surprise anyone. They work with fire, but they don't have bodies well prepared for a spectacular performance with fire (at least not till this past evening), there is almost no acting nor dancing training, and the staging is closer to a television show than a Street theatre spectacle. Fire and acrobatics worked perfectly, but that is not all what we spectators of a big and great city as Toronto is today deserve.
I know, any artistic company has its own process, and for a circus company with very high goals, it must be a very long one. I'm sure we have to wait and follow Circus Orange's process to see it as we see any other great company in the World. (1)
When you see the documents (videos and photographs) I published here try to clean your eyes, forget for a moment fire and costumes, and see those actors' bodies, their movements and make your own opinion of it. You can also search on internet videos of the companies I mentioned before and compare. This could be a very good exercise on observation and taste.
(1) The most recognized groups started with almost no training and only their artistic impulse.