A O Lang Pho
Review by Cicely Binford
There is something special about hearing an audience full of adults oohing and ahhing with childish glee at a circus. I myself will confess to getting swept up in the thrill of it all at Nouveau Cirque Vietnam’s A O Lang Pho, and I can confirm that I was not alone. A O Lang Pho is absolutely delightful.
Director Tuan Le creates illusion from the agile acrobatics of the troupe, moody moonlit scenes where forms emerge from semi-darkness, and a range of simple props used with ingenuity. Coracles aren’t just boats, they’re rocks for frog-jumping, rolling portals for performers to surprise us from, giant baskets to swing in. Large bamboo poles are hefted across the stage, then walked across as balance beams. Straw baskets transform the performers from human to crustacean, and then get stacked two feet high onto an acrobat’s head while traversing the stage.
Live musicians accompany the performers, providing foley and adding to the beauty of each moment – we’re transported from the jungle to the city street with the musicians as our guide. There is a timeless mystery in their music that helps complete the abstract beauty of the first and last sections of this 70 minute show. The middle section takes us out of the natural world and into the city, with vignettes of modern street nightlife, complete with beatboxing and hip hop dancing.
There are a couple of performers who stand out for their comic physicality, fulfilling the clowning aspect of the circus. There are others who are featured in moments like a contortionist sequence, or a particularly stunning, jaw-dropping routine where a man climbs inside a giant metal hoop which spins like a gyroscope. I suppose he’ll be able to go into space now after mastering this skill. Incredible.
One scene particularly memorable for its mesmerizing beauty involved the troupe becoming a kind of abstract, organic unit that resembled either an insect with dozens of fluttering wings, or a kind of multi-armed deity, or a flower with gently swirling petals. It’s one of those visual moments that take you by surprise and stay with you for a long time.
Just when we thought the troupe had come to the end of their wonderful performance, they reemerged for several encores, a few more brief but joyous routines, and finally a procession through the audience out to the foyer to thank us for attending. What an absolute treat it was to see these gorgeous, smiling faces up close, still buzzing with happy energy after a performance that was embraced warmly by the Regal Theatre audience.
A O Lang Pho is a show for everyone, and everyone should have the absolute pleasure of seeing it.
A O Lang Pho runs until 25 Feb at The Regal Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the PIAF website here.