Cirque du Soleil returns to Toronto with a giant egg on Thu, Sep 3. Ovo, Portuguese for “egg,” is a new show about an actual egg that mysteriously appears one day within a microcommunity of athletic, flexible, fantastical, dramatic and colourful insects. Ovo features a talented cast of 55 performers from 13 countries who will take turns balancing, flying through the air, scaling walls, dangling from threads and generally showing us how insects have a good time.
Among Ovo’s cast of fabulous bugs will be Michelle Matlock, a Seattle native currently living in New York City. A writer and performer, Matlock’s previous work includes The Mammy Project, a solo show which explores the influence that the “mammy” stereotype and mythology on contemporary US culture (Themammyproject.com). A graduate of the National Shakespeare Academy in New York, Matlock attended a general audition for Cirque du Soleil and was told that, while the troupe wanted to use her, they didn’t have a part for her at the time.
“They said they wanted to use me ‘somehow’ but they weren’t sure where,” says Matlock. Five years later she got the call; the company had finally found the perfect role for her talents.
Matlock was invited to join the cast of Ovo as The Ladybug. The Juliet of this circus story (not to give the ending away), The Ladybug is sweet, full of life and looking for love. In costume, Matlock looks like pop art on stage.
“I love [the lady bug],” Matlock chuckles over the phone from her current tour location in Quebec City. “She’s a diva, with her disco boots and her sexy belly!”
The bubblicious character, she adds, with her drag-queen-like qualities, is familiar territory. “Luckily,” Matlock says, “I grew up around drag queens.”
Though Matlock hadn’t, before Cirque du Soleil, pictured herself playing the part of a ladybug in a Canadian circus, she believes the role is a perfect fit for her background in theatre and clowning. Even though the wait for the part was long, everything she did between her audition and Ovo has contributed to her performance in this show. The prep work included several years working with other circus troupes including NYC’s queer social justice circus troupe Circus Amok. “Somehow it seems perfect,” she says, noting that working with Cirque du Soleil is like the epitome of circus and clowning work.
With an extensive history of innovative theatrical circus creations, Cirque du Soleil, currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, is a company that can be counted on to deliver eye-popping, jaw-dropping performances.
“It’s interesting,” says Matlock. “You never know how certain things are going to work out.”