Quebec run of Empire Canada for adults only

Quebec run of Empire Canada for adults only

The circus is in town! Come one, come all…ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages!

Empire_Canada_4Well, maybe not.

By Ruby Pratka

Empire Canada, the new circus-like show at the Port de Québec, is definitely an adults-only spectacle. It’s an edgy mix of vintage circus acrobatics, burlesque, power pop music and comedy, staged in the round, in a wooden pop-up theatre with stained-glass windows decorated with neon signs to look like a basement strip club.

The performers’ costumes, over-the-top heterogeneous outfits picked out of a costume shop bargain bin and topped with wild wigs, set the tone for a night of boisterous energy. You will laugh, you will gasp, and you may just get pushed to the very edge of your comfort zone or hit by a flying banana.

The audience is drawn into the show even before it begins, with the performers treating them to lap dances and games of human ring toss. As the show goes on, the acts become, as Lewis Carroll put it, “curiouser and curiouser,” and ever more absorbing. Two bilingual anglophone performers— the show’s roots are in the US but it is now touring across Canada— welcome the audience in both official languages to the one-of-a-kind venue, the Spiegeltent. Their French vocabulary is limited, endearing and vulgar and wins the audience over from the word lêcher.

The show opens with a musical homage to New York City led by a powerful ballad singer known as Miss Purple. A metaphorical subway door— circular curtains play many roles in this show— opens to reveal a scantily clad contortionist in a plastic bubble. The boisterous silliness of the early scenes is forgotten as eyes are drawn to her enthralling act, as she hangs far above the crowd and forms impossible-looking balletic shapes with her suspended body.

Suddenly, the energy level rises again as swing music plays and performers compete to see who can change costumes the fastest, resulting in one moment of complete nudity which may or may not have been intentional, but is deftly played for comic relief a bit later on.

Male members of the audience should be prepared to be drawn onstage and publicly humiliated in good fun. There is also one scene, hilarious but not for the faint of heart, where audience members should brace themselves to be hit by flying bits of banana.

However, the show isn’t all raucous humour. There are scenes of Cirque du Soleil-type acrobatics, performed with breathtaking beauty. A pair of professional roller skaters, spinning and twisting faster than an old record on the turntable-like stage, will take your breath away, as will a pair of young male acrobats, the smaller performer using the feet of the taller one as a springboard.

The show ends with a surprisingly beautiful and intricate balancing act, which reminds everyone of the ephemeral nature of nights like this— after a stunningly quick 90 minutes, the performance will pop like a bubble, the wooden boards will be packed up and the surreal, boisterous show and its whirling colours will exist only in our minds. Empire is a memory worth making.

Spiegelworld Presents: Empire Canada is playing at the temporary performance space at Pier 34 at the Port de Québec until July 19. Tickets start at $52, taxes included, and are available at the box office and on There is a pop-up bar onsite.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Opinion

About Author

Ruby Pratka

Ruby Pratka grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, studied in Ottawa and took the roundabout way to Quebec City via Russia, Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Belgium and East Africa. In addition to writing for and Life in Québec Magazine, she also contributes to other media outlets in English and French. She enjoys keeping a close eye on international affairs, listening to good music and singing in large groups.

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