À Ố Làng Phố, a new show by the Vietnamese circus company Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam is on at the Sydney Opera House from 12 – 15 June 2019. Directed by the company’s co-founder, former Cirque du Soleil performer and choreographer Tuan Le, the name of the show can be loosely translated as ‘from village to city’ and presents a stunning visual representation of Vietnam’s fascinating culture, and the transformation of the country into modernity as the city encroaches on village life and traditions.
The first thing that struck me when sitting down pre-show was the sparse, austere stage. Most of the instruments used by the performers were made of bamboo, a very evocative choice especially considering the gravity defying feats performed by the acrobats using these props.
The bamboo is also a significant symbol of Vietnamese culture and evokes memories of peaceful, rustic villages in the viewer. This clever use of symbolism is spread throughout the show, showing the director had painstakingly choreographed each movement, each beat change.
The cast of fifteen acrobats work as one entity, flowing seamlessly across the stage, in a blend of circus tricks and physical theatre. In fact, to call it circus seems somehow unfulfilling, I can only really say that if theatre is story telling then this was theatre of the highest order as the performers play vignettes of a culture transforming from idyllic village scenes to chaotic city life, each scene melding into the next creating a visual tapestry that takes the audience on a journey.
Set to a live contemporary score, the show uses music fusing traditional Vietnamese folk music with beat boxing and hip-hop. Played by five musicians, the music was an integral part of the show and was wonderfully composed, with a wide array of traditional Vietnamese instruments on display.
There were many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the crowd, and each scene was wildly cheered by the crowd. My plus one exclaimed to me after the show that this was better than Hamilton in New York; and while I can’t quite come to agree with her, I would rate this as one of the most breathtaking pieces of physical theatre and circus I’ve ever seen.
Haseeb Chishti is a management consultant by profession and a theatre aficionado by passion.
À Ố Làng Phố runs 12-15 June 2019 at Sydney Opera House, 7.00PM (70 min). Buy tickets now.
The venue is accessible.