Being the epitome of the modern day circus, of course we weren’t to miss Cirque du Soleil’s brief Rome tour. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know of the performing group nowadays and I was expected to be awed by my first Cirque experience, but this was not the case.
Coming from a Comparative Literature background I found the story to not have been all there— I understood the beginning, with the four elements in harmony but I lost it from that point onwards. Dralion obviously has Chinese underpinnings, with the name being an amalgam of ‘Dragon’ and ‘Lion,’ supposedly an interplay between East and West. The playbook states that the performance was inspired by ‘Eastern philosophy’ but beside the elements of fire, water, earth, and wind and dancing Chinese guardian dogs, I saw less philosophy and more orientalism. In addition, the oversized balls绣球 (or oversized pearls usually found within the guardians’ mouths) used as balance balls was a play lost on the audience.
Thinking about it now, if the dragons represent the East and the lion-dogs also represent the East, where is the West? My best guess would be the West comes in the form of the three clowns who perform what is best described as physical comedy. The over-the-top movements and exaggerated jokes were perhaps appropriate in traditional circuses with traditional clowns, but I found them jarring to watch after experiencing the smooth flow of aerial acrobatics. I do understand the need for the orchestra to take occasional breaks, but perhaps there could be a less unpleasant way for the show to allow them to do so. Of course this is just me, the crowd loved those three.
Speaking of unpleasant experiences, the entire event could have been handled much better. There is precious little lighting outside the Palalottomatico, and no clear directions as to where the entrance is. We managed to fall in line in three separate entrance queues before finally being let in the right one— let me tell you it was a bizarre experience running around outer periphery in the dark dodging similarly confused Italians. The entrance gate was noted on the tickets, yes, but it wasn’t on the gate. Now there’s brilliance if I ever saw it. In addition, there were no ushers, nor any numbering on the seats (or maybe there was, but it was just too dark). During the show, many people kept taking flash photography— something expressly forbidden by the organizers and incredibly irritating to the rest of the audience. A lady to our left kept taking photos with her phone, even of the shadow performance. Lady, listen to me carefully, flash won’t work with shadows. And from our vertigo-inducing vantage point, flash won’t work with anything except the back of people’s heads! Perhaps the most irritating experience for myself and the boy was having to be privy to three children two rows down who kept on playing cellphone games throughout the show. They probably wasted around 100€ of their parents’ money on tickets alone. Just goes to show that you can bring the horse to the well but can’t force cultural appreciation on it.
That said, everyone in section C11 was remarkably helpful in helping us find our seats and the acrobatics in the show were fantastic. Would I watch another Cirque du Soleil show again? Oh yes, definitely. Would I do it in Rome? Let me get back to you on that.