Aliens versus hippies — Wonderbolt Circus couldn’t get more cosmically groovy.
Starting Thursday at the Smallwood Arts and Culture Centre in Gander, the circus will be touring its latest show, “Cirkzilla,” around the province, ending up in Torbay July 14.
It’s a remount for Wonderbolt — last year, the performers brought “Cirkzilla” to certain spots around the island and to St-Pierre. This time around, they’ve reworked a fair amount of the show, and have a new cast, with circus performers from around the world.
Ringmastered by Beni Malone, the piece has a loose, lighthearted theme in which the entire cast had a hand interpreting.
“We tend to come up with themes we can really have some fun with,” Malone explained.
Produced with great sound effects and music from the ’60s, the show sees a group of hippies on a road trip in their Volkswagen van running into a UFO filled with funky aliens who’ve just landed on earth.
There’s a human hitchhiker, played by James Burke, who manoeuvres between both worlds.
“It looks like there’s going to be an altercation, but peace, love and understanding reign afterwards,” Malone explained.
Burke is Wonderbolt’s longest-serving circus performer outside members of the Malone family. He specializes in juggling and character work, but has been working on other acts as well.
He’s home for a few months after spending the better part of a year in circus training in Montreal.
“It’s the most fun work I’ve ever done,” Burke said of his circus career. What he likes about Wonderbolt is that unlike other circuses, it doesn’t take itself or its story lines too seriously.
“We don’t want to smack someone in the face with a story or theme,” he explained.
“The really fantastic thing about this circus is there are no limits. If you’re a musician, then it’s understood that you play an instrument or make music of some kind. But with the circus, whatever talents you bring to the table, we use. If we were a culinary dish, we’d be pad thai — whatever’s in the fridge, throw it in.”
The “Cirkzilla” cast members are indeed varied when it comes to their talents: there are jugglers, clowns, hand-balancers, hula-hoop artists, gymnasts, stilt-walkers, unicyclists and plenty more.
Terrance Littletent, an aboriginal hoop dancer from Saskatchewan who’s won world championships, was recruited by Malone to perform with Wonderbolt. This will be his fourth production with the circus.
Using a total of 17 hoops, Littletent performs original dances that weave a story of nature. He uses the hoops to depict animals like a bear and an eagle. In “Cirkzilla,” he provides a stunning performance in glowing costume under black light with LED-lit hoops.
Anahareo White-Malone, Malone’s daughter, is a formally-trained aerialist who’ll perform on the silks and the acrobatic pole.
“The pole is something I haven’t done before,” she explained. “There’s a lot of group work as well, so we don’t just do our act; we also do a character. It’s all about having fun.”
White-Malone spent the past seven years performing in cabarets in Germany, and moved home to St. John’s with her husband (a sound technician for the circus) and baby daughter last summer. Since then, she’s been helping her father prepare the show and bring in the artists.
Local “Cirkzilla” cast members include Burke, Alley “Oop” (Allison Collins) and Greg Bruce, while others include Sandrine Merette and Bekka Rose from Montreal, Charlotte Greenblat from the United States and Mirko Trierenberg from Germany; all friends of White-Malone, and many of them former performers with the Cirque du Soleil.
“We’ve been doing the circus for 30 years, but after Anahareo graduated from l'École nationale de cirque in Montreal, we’ve had a bigger network to draw on,” Malone said.
“We brought a few of her friends back for shows and friends of theirs, and now we have a really big network of people from all over the world, emailing us to be a part of the show, saying, ‘What are you doing this summer?’.”
“It brings a new energy, which is nice,” White-Malone added. “We have a nice group of people, a lot of creative energy, and it’s fun to do a creation together.”
Founded in 1981, Wonderbolt’s first tour of the province went to every community on the island unreachable by road. Today, they continue to perform in towns and outports across the province and two years ago, brought the show “Tricksters” to the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad.
For “Cirkzilla,” Wonderbolt has paid special attention to staging, set and props this time around, and has also created some funky and outrageous costumes to go with the hippies/aliens theme.
After the show in Gander, Wonderbolt will bring “Cirkzilla” to St. John’s July 7-8, Clarenville July 10, Witless Bay July 13 and Torbay July 14.
Individual ticket information for the various venues is available on the circus website at www.wonderbolt.ca.