REVIEW /// “VOLTA in Toronto!”

REVIEW /// “VOLTA in Toronto!”
By: Henry Peirson – Toronto, Ontario (CAN)

I saw VOLTA in Toronto on September 10th at 1:30pm; nice show! Not as bad as people are making it out to be. It’s certainly not as good as LUZIA or KURIOS, but I enjoyed it more than, say, TOTEM or OVO. I’d probably put it around Amaluna and Kooza in terms of quality. With time I’m sure it could improve to a better position in my books.

Animation: The artists seem to have a lot of fun in this show, which is just wonderful to see. I was entering the big top right when they entered beside us from under the bleachers. They do a really great job of warming up the crowd, IMO a better job than Wayne Wilson’s clown who’s more-or-less the “co-host” of the game show.

Opening: The opening relies on a video display to introduce the audience to Waz’s background story, which I wasn’t too impressed with (the video appears several more times throughout to give us more background and context). However this does ease and direct the audience throughout the story much better than the more misguided attempt at a narrative in DELIRIUM.

Quid-Pro-Quo: The jump-ropers were AMAZING. Their timing and precision really helped launch us into the high energy of the show. The concept for the show, is, uh, interesting, to say the least. A game show? Seems a bit… too Earthy? Idk.

Precision Walking: Omg, I LOVED this choreographed walking. Certainly brought out the whole feel of the monotone world of the Greys. Very reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 to me. One of the Greys was having trouble turning on the light on his “phone”.

Roller Skating and Basketball Manipulation: Nice introduction to the Free Spirits. During the act they all interacted really well with the audience; you could tell they were really into it. The act is no longer baton twirling (it was moved to later in the show), but now basketball manipulation. I feel like I would have been more impressed with the act if I hadn’t been spoiled with the football freestyle from last year’s LUZIA. No doubt he was talented, but I didn’t feel like I was seeing anything new.

Acro Lamp: I really loved this act. The guy was really talented, and because of the the nature of the object he was using, his tricks didn’t feel like a boring old aerial act like aerial straps or anything. Stage was a bit empty though. But man, Camilla Bäckman can sing SO high!

Clown Act 1: I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne Wilson’s clowning, unlike from what I’ve heard from other people. Although it did feel out of place in theme (he’s simply dealing with disruptive washing machines), I suppose that’s not unusual for a clown act.

Parkour: Out for the show, which I think is unusual considering it’s a 5-6 person act – group acts, of course, would normally just have an alternate routine if one or two people were out. I mean, what if a banquine artist was out in Quidam? You can’t just cut it out! As far as I know I didn’t notice any artist throughout the show being out, so maybe they cut the act but somehow I doubt that.

Flatland Bike and Ballet: A nice act – I really enjoyed the relationship between the two artists. They looked very young, 13-14 maybe, but I’m not sure if they’re actually teens or just young looking adults. The flatland biker made some minor mistakes, and he seemed to look frustrated with himself as a result of that.

Swiss Rings and Bungee: A very energetic act to end of act 1. I was in awe seeing the bungee in the big top – it made me wish I could’ve seen Saltimbanco’s bungee under the tent. The swiss rings had some really great tricks, and I feel that the bungee may have diminished in effect as a result of that. As much as I was in awe of them, they didn’t have the chance to perform many big tricks. It felt like a 70/30 balance when it should have been 50/50. Hopefully they’ll develop the act a bit more to co-ordinate it as to have a result that’s more similar to LUZIA’s cyr wheel/trapeze in balance and quality.

Act 2 Opening: Another “precision” choreographed walk opened act 2, this time with the Greys interacting with newspapers. I LOVED this one! It was so flawlessly choreographed and brought up so many images I can’t even begin to describe. A truly beautiful, albeit short, moment that builds and improves on the previous choreography’s

Acro-Ladders: Fairly good act, kinda slow paced and out of place. It sorta just happened. Since the ladders were positioned and manipulated far over on the right edge of the stage, I imagine the act was far more entertaining for those seated over there as the artists quite literally dangled above them. Saw quite a few phones in that section capturing the moment. (EDIT: I’ve come to the realization that the act is normally two couples on the left and right of the stage, whereas for me it was only one couple. That may explain why it felt so slow paced and out of touch).

Shape Diving: Ooof. That performance was not a good one for those artists. I felt bad for them. I counted around 7-10 mistakes alone during the act, although admittedly it’s a VERY hard act to pull off (I saw 2-3 mistakes with the same act last year in LUZIA). Despite this, however, the act was quite a show-stopper. The artists were really good about not letting their faults get to them (or at least didn’t show it on their faces), and kept encouraging the crowd to clap along with the music, which the audience enthusiastically agreed to. In a sense, too, it almost felt like the tricks were more impressive after they screwed up and then got it right – there was a certain great gratification that comes along with that feeling. (If you haven’t noticed yet, this act got moved from act 1 to act 2. Probably a good idea, it certainly balances the two acts better.)

Tightwire: Not in the show. I thoroughly believe this act has been cut, considering that I haven’t heard of anyone having seen the act. Plus it wasn’t like the artist was out sick or had an injury: he was one of the divers in the shape diving act!

Ring (again), Trial Bike, and Roller Skating (again): Another aerial act? Jeez, this one just seemed like a crossover between acro lamp and swiss rings. But it was basically just a minute of a guy spinning in the air (which I’ll give him credit for is very impressive) before making through for the main act: the trial bicyclist. There was a nice moment of awe when the hydraulic lifts were revealed from the stage. Those were CRAZY!! Most of his tricks were reminiscent of La Nouba, but his final trick (staying on the highest lift as it when to a crazy steep angle) was a nice treat.

Clown act 2: Weird act but I still enjoyed it. It reminded me of the couch clown act from KURIOS in the sense that the clown essentially went through a bunch of diverse and crazy moments of comedy, only stringed together by the fact that he had accidentally eaten some berries that made him high. His “King Lear” moment (as I saw it) was hilarious – don’t ask me what that means, you’ll have to see for yourself 😉

Hair Suspension: ABSOLUTELY. INSANE. What a showstopper. Man, she glided with such elegance around the stage; it was unbelievable. Akin to an aerial ballet if anything. Admittedly, the act is completely out of place. The whole atmosphere seems much more fitting for LUZIA than VOLTA – it would make a nice replacement for Benjamin Courtney’s aerial straps if he leaves the show.

Duo Unicycle: Pretty much the same comment as everyone else before me has said: the music is too epic for so mild an act. No doubt, the act was impressive, but it deserves to be found in the middle of the show as opposed to being the penultimate act. The atmosphere was nice though – the choreography with the drapes from the top of the tent was well done. The drummer that was the filler to set up for the act really did feel like a filler.

Contemporary Dance: I’ve neglected to speak much about Joey Arrigo’s Waz so far – he does a wonderful job. I feel if anyone else took on the character he would become just a complete caricature of the [rather generic] story. He does a great job physicalizing the character, which of course climaxes in this contemporary dance. Naturally he does a great job, considering his dance background. I would list this as one of the highlights of the show for me, actually.

Batons and BMX: The baton twirling were moved here from its earlier placement in the show to act more-or-less as a distraction from the set-up of the BMX ramps. She does a lovely job but it does feel rather truncated. The BMX, naturally, was invigorating. Truly as crazy as it sounds, it really is a miracle that they don’t fall of the stage or slam into each other. I’m glad I was seated in left side of the tent as opposed to the centre, because it really seemed like trying to enjoy the act by looking through one of the see-through ramps wasn’t very fun.

Finale: YEESH, they need to PICK. UP. THE. PACE. This finale (which more-or-less transitioned directly into bows) was one of the slowest, most awkward ones I had seen in a while. As a result of the BMX ramps, they’ve opted to allow the artists to pile off the stage and into the aisles to be applauded. It sounds okay, but the issue is that the only stairs that were open and available to them were the ones directly out front the stage. It took them quite literally several minutes to get off the stage (and keep in mind that this is the length of time it’s taking them after having done done the show for 5 months now). Naturally this made a standing ovation awkward for the audience as we had no idea what to do with ourselves. IMO the bows just needs to be completely overhauled. They just need to find some way to keep the artists on stage for the bows and keep it simple, quick, and effective. (As a side note, some bald man came from backstage dressed in all black. I have no idea who he is but it’s clear to me that this was some special performance for him because the artists all went and hugged him as he was there. It seemed like it was his last show or something, and it is BOTHERING ME that I have no idea who he is!)

Anyway, there you have VOLTA as it is in Toronto right now. It’s a good, fun show, and right now I’d give it 3-3.5 out of 5 stars. It has high potential, and with development over time I’m sure VOLTA can become a great show. I’m certain its better now than ever, and it will only continue to get better with each performance.

Other notes on the show:

– DARIUS. HARPER. OHMYGOD. HE is absolutely the highlight of the show. 100%. His stage presence is absolutely enthralling. Not only is he an amazing singer, but he just steals the show every time he steps out onto the stage. He absolutely commands it. The show is certainly not the same without him there. I even found it hard during the opening skipping ropes to pay attention to the act because his presence on the stage was just eye catching.

– The music as everyone has already noted is great. My one regret is not going to the show a week later when I could actually buy the CD.

– I LOVE Elani Uranis’ makeup design.

– Wish I could see the band more – they’re even more hidden than Dralion’s band (if that’s even possible). I saw them lit up may 2 or 3 times the whole show, and even then I struggled to point them out to those around me.

– Act one seemed awfully short, clocking in at just above 45 minutes, though this may be because parkour was out (then again, in the badly-filmed version of VOLTA on YouTube, which does have parkour, the first half clocks in at 46 minutes…). Act two was about 55 minutes.

– Cirque no longer allows videos (I’m pretty sure they allowed them before, right?). They said only non-flash photos (which is ironic considering they were selling these flashing flower crowns to children at intermission, which naturally were flashing for the first few minutes of the second act).

– Merchandise is SO. LAME. right now. There was not one CD or DVD of any show (at LUZIA last year there was TORUK, Varekai, Kooza, Quidam, etc.). The only thing that was worth buying for me was the program, which I will note is very nicely printed and put together, although it would be nice to have one that’s more updated with proper photos from the show as opposed to photos from creation.