Juggling with the subconscious

The French-Canadian Cirque Eloize brings its dream-like version of big-top magic to London
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The Independent Culture

These days, it's easy to be blasé about the circus coming to town, with world-class shows such as the Moscow and Chinese State circuses pitching up regularly on our local commons. Nevertheless, the French-Canadian troupe Cirque Eloize is hoping to ignite some good old-fashioned excitement with its latest production, Nomade, which arrives at the Barbican at the end of this month. The last time the Eloize performed there, in 2000, it enjoyed a sell-out run with Excentricus.

The new show is directed by the Swiss-Italian Daniele Finzi Pasca, the founder of Lugano's Teatro Sunil. Speaking in mellifluous French-American tones, he says that Cirque Eloize is a cousin to, but different from, its fellow-Canadian Cirque du Soleil. Cirque Eloize's creators have drawn on the cultural traditions of the natives of the Magdalen Islands, off the province of Quebec, where the troupe was founded just over nine years ago. Since then, they have given more than 1,200 performances in 200 cities around the world.

In true nomadic style, there is no preordained plot. As Finzi Pasca says: "There is no linear direction to it. It is a superimposition of events based on the world of the subconscious. It is the language of dreams." The way he describes it, the show has an epic and universal quality, but also deals with basic human impulses.

"It is a new form that connects circus and theatre," Finzi Pasca continues. "An almost Shakespearean structure is emerging from it - there is a prologue and an epilogue. Each performer is a manifestation of history, a substance of the dream world. It is a feast and a dance of life." So plenty to be going on with, then.

To capture the true atmosphere of this production, Finzi Pasca says, "You have to imagine that you've opened your grandparents' wedding album and are looking at the faded pictures, tarnished and cracking. You know you're holding something fragile and special. It seems to tell you how you have got to this moment in time. It is both close and a long way off. This is the atmosphere we've tried to create."

But traditional circus acts are not neglected: 14 men and women balance on high wires, lunge on teeterboards, juggle crystal balls, tumble and soar through aerial hoops. There's also a unicyclist, a contortionist, and two clowns. In addition, there's a new act involving a man in a rotary hoop invented for Cirque Eloize by its co-founder Daniel Cyr, it involves a performer within a wheel, doing a dazzling array of tricks.

Cirque Eloize's artistes have done seven months of vigorous training to pull together what Finzi Pasca hopes is a show that "unravels the world's secrets and sparks the curiosity of a sleepy child". We'll see.

'Nomade', Barbican Theatre, London, EC1 (020-7638 8891; www.barbican.org.uk). From tomorrow to 23 August