Cirque Stratosphere is wonderfully stylised exhibition of aerial, acrobatic, and circus tethered between the Earth and the Moon. While a show like The Illusionists ultimately struggled to present a coherent piece, here we have no such difficulties.
Hamer Hall was turned into a big top tent, shifting between NASA and Mission Control, on-board the Apollo missions, and occasionally back on the ground. While crew, dressed as NASA-esque technicians moved around the stage, also helping keep everything intertwined was DJ Hikuri Roots perched high on a lighting rig, while back on “Terra Hamer” – there were the surreal antics of Steve Capps’ Tape Face and delightful clowning by Salvador Salangsang.
Mykola Mykytchyn, Tymofii Chemko, and Oleksii Balakhchy had the audience on their side early with a terrific Russian Bar routine, while Dmitry Makrushin, Oleg Bespalov ran through an incredible example of hand-to-hand acrobatics and circus.
Not every act had quite as much space, however, with Evgenii Isaev and Natalia Korzhukova turning roller skating into a death-defying blur on the smallest of platforms, before later Felice Aguilar wrung from her concerned Astronaut’s wife character an extraordinary display of rhythmic gymnastics.
The over-arching theme of trajectories and orbits was embraced further by others, such as Emma Dutton rising and spinning through the lighting rig in her Aerial Hoop, or Anna Lewandowska’s frenetic Cyr Wheel. Denis Kibenko, Dmitrii Stepanov, and Nikolai Ermolaev rocketed straight up on their teeterboard, as Oleg Spigin traced slow yet stunning circles while balancing on his Washingon Trapeze.
Particular crowd favourites and a highlight were Shenpeng Nie and Nicolas-Yang Wang for their Hoop Diving act that wove artistry and 10,000+ hours of training into a compelling, fun routine.
After Polina Volchek drew more than a few gasps from the audience for her Pole routine, Marat Dashhempilov tumbled and twirled on his Bungee Straps.
With the lights brooding through the haze and sounds of Mission Control filling the space, the crew swarmed over the stage to rig the space for the Wheel of Death. Roy Miller and Luis Romero span and ran and – near heart-stoppingly – stumbled in and on top of this rapidly rotating marvel, a fantastic culmination of what was an amazing display by every act.
One of the most engaging things about the show were occasional small moments of imperfection: an adjusted handhold, a shaking limb, or the slightest of stumbles. You’re reminded that these incredible feats are performed by real people and thus any slip in concentration (by them or the crew) would have a very real human cost. Cirque Stratosphere reminds us of the beauty of the night sky and what we lose when we stop looking up at it.
Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 3 January 2020 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 11 January 2020
Following the Melbourne season, Cirque Stratosphere will return to the Concert Hall – Sydney Opera House: 14 – 19 January 2020.
Image: Anna Lewandowska’s frenetic Cyr Wheel in Cirque Stratosphere – photo by Jordan Munns
Review: David Collins