Nouveau Cirque Du Vietnam masterfully brings their concept of ‘new circus’ to Perth audiences in Lang Toi (My Village).
Lang Toi (My Village) isn’t what you would call a ‘traditional circus’ performance. There are no clowns or animals. There’s no ringmaster, nor a ring, and there is no intermission. Instead, you’ll see acrobats, singers and musicians converge to tell an immersive narrative deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture.
Nouveau Cirque Du Vietnam’s second Perth Festival performance (the first being AO Lang Pho in 2017) starts with a 15-strong acrobatic troupe sowing seeds in a rice paddy field. It’s a simple scene that sets the tone for the rest of the performance, which sees the cast recreate the day-to-day happenings of a traditional Vietnamese village.
The audience gets a first glimpse of the acrobatic prowess of the company’s artists within minutes, as they race around the stage playing chasey between giant bamboo poles. The troupe uses the canes throughout the show to build huts, to juggle, climb and even make music. You’ll be dumbfounded at the sheer strength of the performers, who make climbing up, carrying and throwing the 4.5m bamboo sticks look like child’s play.
As the show progresses, so do the visually and physically impressive feats. A trapeze artist flies above the stage as bamboo poles move and transform around her, at one point cocooning her in a spiral of sticks. Performers build makeshift ladders before a contortionist walks up and down them, upside down in a bend back pose. The same artist, who’s now balancing on one leg, twists her other leg around in a scene that resembles something out of The Conjuring. Then, there’s the bamboo tightrope. You’ll watch in disbelieve as a performer walks across a bamboo pole 10m above ground, with a woman balancing on his head, barely breaking a sweat.
Tying the entire story together is Vietnamese folk music played by a four-piece orchestra. The musicians, who play ancestral instruments like the drums, flute, zither and three-stringed lute, improvise to the movement of the performers. The result is an ambient musical score that’s just as much a part of the routine as the acrobatics.
And that’s what makes Lang Toi so memorable – the ability to tell a culturally rich story through movement and music, no matter the language.
Lang Toi (My Village) runs until February 17, 2019 at the Regal Theatre.
For tickets visit https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/lang-toi-village.