Ever wondered what a human fireworks display looks like? Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s PSY is about as close as you’re gonna get. You’ll “ooh” and “aah,” be totally bowled over and generally never want it to end.
The Montreal-based circus company, brought to town by the ever-discerning ArtsEmerson, is no Cirque du Soleil. In fact, these plucky young acrobats and performers blow the big boys right out of the water. PSY’s eleven performers leap, spin, juggle, fly, flip, fall and just about every other action verb you can imagine across the Cutler Majestic’s modest-sized stage in a dizzying whirl. They’re dressed in street clothes, with faces bright and frantic.
PSY’s subject of choice: the very messy and wonderful mechanics of the human brain. The show starts off on a psychiatrist’s couch—but, of course, mental unrest isn’t about talking. Our first addled patient leaps off of the couch and onto a waiting trapeze, and after that the show never stops moving.
Turns out acrobatics can function as brilliant metaphors for psychological disorders. An addict turns, fights and falls restlessly in a giant metal wheel; a couple with sleeping disorders twist, collapse and catch themselves on a vertical pole; group therapy culminates in a delirious full-cast juggling session.
It’s impossible to convey in writing just how truly stunning all of this is. The members of Les 7 Doigts approach their craft with such clear joy and apparent abandon that it’s totally transporting. Director Shana Carroll keeps the show carefully balanced on the central idea—loss of mental control as expressed by extreme feats of physical abandon. It’s all backed by a gorgeous sound design by Julien Lanthier that’s part new club, part old circus.
PSY proves that cirque nouveau can really be about something without being pretentious. You’ll be moved emotionally at least as often as you’re just flat-out astounded.