The US city of Detroit is a hard place, marred by industrial disappointments. Yet right in its epicentre is a thing of great beauty that has lived through two economic landslides. In a courtyard of the Detroit Institute of Arts are four walls of frescoes painted in 1932 by Mexican artist Diego Rivera – Frida Kahlo’s husband. At first commissioned to paint just one wall, Rivera was soon enamoured with the factories and insisted on painting the whole room.
Seven decades later, former Cirque du Soleil performer Chris Lashua was so inspired by Rivera’s work, the machinery and the factories that he split from his troupe to create The Birdhouse Factory. The show covers the disciplines of gymnastics, clowning, juggling and dance, all set in a factory, a place many see as dull, but where Lashua and Rivera both found beauty. The show has been running since 2004 and is a hit in the States, with The New York Times calling it ‘engrossingly entertaining’.
Dubai is the production’s fourth international port of call, but transporting the ‘factory’ to the UAE has been no mean feat: it involved duplicating every machine, prop and birdhouse. ‘The job of our technical staff is to set up the show so that there is no real difference to the artists, whether they’re performing in New York or Mumbai,’ points out director and creator Lashua. ‘Getting the show to Dubai is a challenge, but once inside the theatre the work is much the same.’
So why the fascination with the birds and their abodes? The whimsical story follows factory workers who, after a tragic accident, lose interest in their day-to-day work and instead decide to build birdhouses. ‘It has dance, theatre and circus; it also has machines that will keep the engineers in the audience wondering how it’s all put together,’ explains Lashua. Whether you’re a circus buff or more of a casual theatregoer, this is your chance to witness a show that has the weathered American critics gushing.
What you can expect from the show
• A Mongolian contortionist twisting her limbs on a turntable powered by unicycles (who thinks these things up?!)
• A lot of hip-twirling and gyration by a hula-hoop artist
• Three brave acrobats jumping off a 12ft wall onto a trampoline and back up onto the edge of the wall: ankles beware!
Show: The Birdhouse Factory
When: May 14-29
Where: First Group Theatre, Madinat