Mirvish brings theatrical circus troupe 7 Fingers’ latest show Cuisine & Confessions to Toronto
Inviting someone to your home for a meal is one of the most personal gestures you can extend to someone. Establishing a deeper connection with someone by sharing a meal together seems to be a universal human experience that cuts across cultures. It just so happens that establishing a human connection by sharing food is exactly what theatrical circus troupe the 7 Fingers attempts to do in their new show Cuisine & Confessions.
The show is set in a kitchen and the set is indeed a real, functional kitchen because there is real, live cooking going on at various points during the show.
When you enter the auditorium, the cast members are already on stage mingling, inviting audience members up to help with food preparation, serving others coffee, playing catch with various foodstuffs, and periodically stepping up to a microphone to engage in off-the-cuff banter. The cast members ooze warmth and charm, and they’re a joy to watch.
In many ways, the 7 Fingers is the anti-Cirque du Soleil; they prefer to approach theatrical circus on a more human scale. In the place of phantasmagorical characters and elaborate “mise-en-scene,” for Cuisine & Confessions we have a group of eight people, not characters, eight circus performers appearing on the stage as themselves to share personal, true stories from their lives.
Directors Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila collaboratively wrote the show by mining true stories from the cast members’ lives and weaving together snippets of narratives and themes throughout the various acts in the show.
While I like the concept, I do think this show lacks a bit of the polish of the previous shows I’ve seen from the company. The transitions feel a little bit random and I think some work with a dramaturg might help strengthen the themes, better define the through-lines and connect the disparate pieces of the show a little more.
But let’s face it: at the end of the day, this is a circus show, so theme and script are secondary in importance to the acrobatic acts. Fortunately, this show features a solid collection of acts across a variety of circus disciplines performed by an immensely talented and utterly likeable cast.
Yes, there are some moments when cast members are definitely mugging for the audience, but on the flip side, the show is at its strongest when the cast members are given a chance to reveal their true selves.
One particularly affecting scene features Sidney Bateman and Melvin Diggs performing a variation on the Chinese hoops discipline where the performers sling their bodies arrow-like through towers of hoops. The duo brings a fresh, contemporary style to the ancient circus discipline, so it feels more like a mix with parkour. The act is accompanied by snippets of a pre-recorded monologue by Diggs, where he talks about growing up with an absent father.
Bateman has another featured act later in the show that mixes dance and an interesting variation of the diabolo (Chinese yoyo). Traditionally manipulated with a string strung between two sticks, Bateman opts instead to manipulate the yoyo with just a single loop of string. His act had the audience simultaneously grooving in their seats while clapping with delight.
Anna Kichtchenko made audience members gasp when she writhed and contorted her lithe body while suspended in the air by a checker tablecloth patterned aerial silk.
Perhaps the most touching, personal moment of the show came when Matias Plaul performed skills on a Chinese pole in between delivering a monologue of remembrance for his father who was taken away by the Argentine military junta when Plaul was just a baby. He alternates between performing death defying plunges on the pole, narrowly arresting his falls before smashing into the ground, and delivering a deeply personal story. The act is simply breathtaking.
There are several acts involving the entire company in elaborate tumbling routines. Sometimes these feel a bit scattershot and unfocused, but there’s a really lovely one choreographed to a downtempo cover of “You’re the One That I Want” from the musical Grease where the choreography creates a nice flow for the individual acrobatic disciplines.
That particular act happens near the end of the show, as the smell of the banana bread baking in the oven on stage wafts throughout the auditorium. This show is a delight for all your senses. It’s well worth checking out.
- The 7 Fingers Cuisine & Confessions is playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West) through December 4, 2016
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Added performance: Thursday, November 3, 2PM. No performance: Wednesday November 2, 2PM
- Tickets $25.00 to $99.00
- Tickets are available by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, in-person at the Princes of Wales Theatre box office or online at Mirvish.com
Photo of the company by Alexandre Galliez