Yesterday my roommate and I saw Circus Flora’s 2015 production, “One Summer On Second Street”.
For those who don’t know (and sadly, even many locals don’t) St. Louis is home to a traditional European-style circus. Unlike the American Barnum-inspired circuses which operate like a variety show, simply showing one act after another, Circus Flora is more like a repertory troupe, performing a play which utilizes the acts to tell a story.
The story is narrated by “Yo-Yo”, Cecil MacKinnon. Her role is similar to that of a ringmaster in an American circus, but more in depth. She tells the story, the other performers act it out.
The other main player is Adam Kuchler, who is a mime, juggler, and captivating physical comedian. “Clown”, for Americans, seems to weak to describe his performance. Yes, he’s funny, but his on-stage character is very real, not like the painted cartoons that most of us think of as clowns.
In prior years we have seen shows based on the silent film, “A Trip To The Moon”, the story of King Arthur, a game of chess, and a turn of the century riverboat called the Floating Palace.
This year’s show, “One Summer On Second Street” is an original story of an urban neighborhood divided by cultural differences and how the residents come together. It’s a sweet story, and particularly topical today.
The main focus, though, is on the acts. Again, unlike the Barnum-style spectaculars, these acts are human-based and intimate, which is not to say that they are not amazing. Seeing a big circus is like watching a concert in a stadium, but Circus Flora is more like live music at a local bar or coffee shop. You’re close enough to touch the performers.
The Flying Wallendas (yes, the Flying Wallendas) bring their world class high wire act, as they have since Circus Flora was founded in 1986.
The Daring Jones Duo do a sensual trapeze act that I can only describe as a vertical tango thirty feet up. A Canadian troupe called Quatuor Bounce does a trampoline wall act that has to be seen to be believed–as a long time circus fan I have never seen anything like it.
There are animal acts, but not with lions and tigers–instead we have a group of preforming house cats–yes, common domestic cats trained to do circus tricks. It was pretty amazing.
The Saint Louis Arches also return. They are local kids who have the opportunity to learn from coaches who are experienced circus jugglers and tumblers. The results are impressive–they are always one of my favorite acts.
Many of the kids go on to careers in the circus arts after they graduate. A pair of brilliant tumblers, Iking and Melvin, are former Arches who returned for this show from touring worldwide.
I really can’t do the circus justice–you have to see the show to appreciate it. If you are in St. Louis or you can get to St. Louis between now and June 28th, you owe it to yourself to attend a show. It’s something that you won’t see anywhere else.