It’s hard to match the magnificent visuals of Metropolis, the 1927 expressionist film by Fritz Lang. Set in a high-rise city of wealthy industrialists, this vision of dystopia literally gleams with Art Deco surfaces. But if spectacle is the name of the game, then Circus Éloize transforms the monochrome classic into vivid 3D.
This thrilling production, rigorously directed by Jeannot Painchaud and Dave St-Pierre, extracts ideas from Lang’s original work to forge a nimble narrative. The stage quickly floods with agitated pencil pushers in white-collar dress. Among them, a rebel (Ashley Carr’s charming clown) refuses to sweat; instead of tending to his workload he animates a puppet constructed from scrunched-up paper. In search of recreation rather than profits, we follow him on a spectacular journey through Metropolis.
The scenery is something special, with scrupulously-designed displays by video artists Robert Massicotte and Alexis Laurence, taking us from a jewelled skyline to shadowy slums lurking underneath. Here, the acrobatics are no less demanding than in corporate life above. Colin André-Hériaud, buttressed by the muscular Aaron Dweitt, warps high in the air like corrugated metal. Selene Ballesteros-Minguer zips along in cartwheels that resemble gears in a machine. All labour – even performance – seems obsessed with construction.
Driven along by banging drums and blasting horns, this is the nightmare of modernity, a paradise built upon relentless industry and perishing workers. But where Metropolis used chilling science fiction to warn against it, Circus Eloize’s adaptation finds traction with a change of pace. Things slow down, and a scroll of piano notes finds its way for Nora Zoller, in catching crimson, to spin elegantly from a Cyr wheel. It’s the little things you have to appreciate.
Illusions and worship are important in Lang’s film, but for Painchaud and St-Pierre it’s their bread and butter. Alexie Maheu, cladded in Byzantium purple, effortlessly wins our adoration as she flies high on the hands of her peers. Ashley the clown will quite impressively woo a dummy, a poignant reminder of mistaking something for the real thing.
There’s no finer message to take from Lang’s cinematic marvel. The company erupts at the end, launching joyously into the air from teeterboards, in a scene resembling an ecstatic office party. Remember to play as tirelessly as you work.
Cirkopolis is on at Pleasance until 28th August. Click here for more details.