Cirque Mechanics takes the stage at Northern Michigan's Interlochen Corson Auditorium Monday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Those who remember the circus of their youth will find this circus. In Cirque Mechanics, there’s no ringmaster, no lion tamer, and the dress is worlds away from tights and spangles. Chris Lashua, the creative mastermind behind behind Cirque Mechanics, says his vision tells a story of a Depression-era factory closing, with both mechanical contraptions and live performers in the spotlight. Which doesn’t necessarily sound much like a circus, but it’s all in the execution.
“Take what you remember about the circus, add a story and combine it with a mechanical context and a more theatrical (approach) – it’s theater, circus, dance and storytelling,” said Lashua.
Lashua got his start with Cirque du Soleil some 20 years ago. It was there that his interest in mechanical devices led to his work with the German Wheel, a large metal ring within which a performer does gymnastics. That eventually spun off into a circus of his own, which includes typical circus acts such as clowns and acrobats, but given new life within the context of a factory. As such, the performers are dressed as factory workers, with dungarees and overalls, in a dingy gray setting. It gets even more gray when the factory closes. But not to worry, as the new owners make things a little more interesting.
The entire production brings to mind the steampunk ethos, with its alternative future view from the past. Lashua says while that wasn’t a deliberate choice at first, it does incorporate some thematic elements of steampunk. “Initially it wasn’t at all, it was about opening up the clockworks,” said Lashua. He points out that steampunk as traditionally defined is a post-Victorian view of a future powered in large part by steam rather than mechanical means. “The costumes and aesthetics are post-Victorian, H.G. Wells, Sherlock Holmes, 1880s science fiction. It’s non-electrical. That’s what we think is so cool, to show that off. We could put motors on the (mechanical apparatus), but it’s not what we want to do.” Instead, the ten performers take on roles in the factory while displaying such talents as acrobatics, juggling, and other traditional circus skills.
Lashua says while the training he and other members of the troupe received from their time at Cirque du Soleil, their look and performance is as far from that as it is from the traditional three-ring circus. “That has lots of spandex, bright colors, fog – it’s a dreamworld scenario. We have no sequins, no black lights – it’s a very real world, a very different feel.”
For more information about Cirque Mechanics or to see videos of some of the acts and artistry, go to CirqueMechanics.com. For tickets, go to Interlochen.tickets.org or call the Interlochen box office at 276-7800.