7 Fingers circus

Every year, the Circus Center of San Francisco puts on a circus show around the holidays. I always read about it, and then never end up going. Usually, it’s a production of the New Pickle Circus, their in-house performing troupe, but this year, they invited a group called les 7 voigts de la main, or the 7 fingers of the hand, to do the holiday show. I’d read the Chronicle article about the performance, but didn’t get tickets right away, because I couldn’t find anybody else that was interested in going. Then Andrew Chaikin, a rocking vocal percussionist, sent out email to his announcement list that he was going to be doing a cameo in the last performance. So I decided to go by myself. And I’m glad I did. Fortunately, the performance wasn’t sold out yet, and I was able to get a single seat left over in the fifth row.

Very cool stuff. The performers each have extensive circus experience; most of them have been featured in multiple Cirque du Soleil shows. But they wanted to branch out and do something new and different – one review described the show as the disgruntled teenage child of Cirque du Soleil. So the seven of them formed a collective to develop a new show. It’s much more intimate in feel than Cirque du Soleil from the very moment of walking into the auditorium. As I walked into the theater, they looked at my ticket and told me to keep walking. The next usher looked at it and told me to keep going, which was weird because I was now backstage. After a few more twists and turns backstage, us audience members were shown through a doorway shaped like a refrigerator onto the stage itself. A few of the performers were lounging around on stage and said hi to people as they walked in, as if we’d just wandered into their home (the stage set was that of a loft). We shuffled across the stage to the auditorium and our seats. Meanwhile, some of the performers were wandering through the audience, bringing coffee to people, showing them to their seats, or just chatting. Very laid-back feel, which set the tone for the whole show; these performers were just hanging out in their loft and killing time by occasionally doing amazing feats of performance, and occasionally singing and dancing.

Some very neat stuff. The reviews do a better job of describing the acts than I could. Or you could check out this video with snippets from their website. But the thing I liked most was that even while one person was doing their act, the rest of the troupe was doing their own things, even if it was just puttering around the loft. And in several of the acts, so many things were going on that I’d have been psyched to see it again just so I could see what was going on in the background. I also really liked the sense of whimsy evident throughout the performance; for instance, they started by flipping through channels on an onscreen television (and projected video for the people in back). They end up on a weather report by a local weatherman, describing a cold front sweeping in, so if you’re going to the theater, you might want to bring a sweater. Then he goes on to tell the audience where the exits are and to turn off their cell phones. The co-option of the local news to be part of the performance entertained me greatly.

Anyway. Very cool. I’d tell you to go see it, except that I went on closing night. Oh well. I’ll definitely check out the circus next year, even if I can’t persuade any of my lame friends to go.

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