Altered reality is the overriding theme of Cirque du Soleil’s latest production. The largest theatrical outfit in the world has been around since 1984 and I have taken in 7 of the 32 shows with Kurios now replacing Mystère as my favourite.
Unlike many of the previous shows I have seen, Kurios has a darker and more mysterious feel to it. The quirkiness is incorporated into typical circus acts like contortion, trampoline, trapeze, and juggling. This is how Cirque du Soleil does a period piece and it is no dull and morose affair typical of British films. Kurios and its incredible cabinet are filled with wonderful, miraculous and oftentimes strange things. All things found there are primo entertainment.
Kurios, from the mind and imagination of Michel Laprise, transports us to a 19th century world involving the work of an inventor known as The Seeker. The Seeker devises a machine that defies time, space and dimension bringing us into a reinvented reality. The possible and impossible collide in this newly created world. Every aspect of the show from the imaginative costumes by Philippe Guillotel, dynamic sets by Stéphane Roy and the music which is a fusion of electro swing and jazz by Raphaël Beau, Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard draws you into the wonderful tale Laprise and his performers are weaving. Gramophones that move on their own, bell jars that light up from within and a man who looks like an accordion all make up part of this wonderful world based on the Paris’ World Fair in the late 19th century.
Things kick off with a bang and a burst of music along with colour and frenetic activity. A steam locomotive pulls up and what gets off is a loud party along with a gaggle of odd but talented characters including acrobats, a juggler and dancers. Many are dressed in their best duds. Dancing, juggling and general revelry happens. The crowd was drawn in immediately with clapping along happening almost from the get go. The highlight of the opening act and a perfect example of how the creative minds behind the show are able to present the usual circus act in an unusual way was when the juggler was lifted up skywards yet continues juggling his pins. A rousing beginning and the creativity and liveliness did not stop for almost the entire two hours of the show.
The show continues with a Russian Cradle Duo involving an immense man acting as a human trapeze swing for a tiny woman. The brute strength in which he was able to throw her into the air and then catch her was amazing. I have to admit my breath was held on several occasions.
The first act was highlighted by two typical acts that were given a healthy dose of new life. Every time I attend a Cirque du Soleil show there are bound to be two acts – contortion and hand balancing. In the hands of less creative people these two things would bring about a lull, but in Laprise’s hands they became the highlight of the first act if not the entire show. The first involved three women dressed in costumes that made them look like eels and they proceeded to contort their bodies in ways that I’ve never seen before. At times they interwove their bodies in displays of strength and flexibility that seemed inhuman. The crowd gave them a burst of rousing applause at the end. The second began as a dinner party involving five people and ended in a chair-balancing act. Now, this was in no way your typical chair-balancing as it involved a mirror reflection of what was happening on stage created using a second set of upside down acrobats suspended from the ceiling. A show in which the impossible became possible.
After a 25 minute intermission, the second act built upon what had been happening in the first. Clever acts like the invisible circus which involved unseen trapeze acrobats, a high diver and even a misbehaving lion that jumped through a ring of fire. The fact that they were able to get the crowd to applaud in essence what was just a couple of sound effects and moving mechanical devices goes a long way towards demonstrating the impact of Kurios on those watching it.
Next up was clown/MC David-Alexandre Després plucking a young woman from the crowd and proceeding to sit her down on a couch on stage in a set-up of a date. Then he imitated a cat so accurately there was not a feline owner in the audience who was not laughing and nodding their head. Even the upchucking of a hair ball brought about laughter.
Innovation concerning typical circus acts continued with a fresh approach to Rola Bola balancing act. A pilot (James Gonzalez) arrives via plane and then starts a balancing act on the cylinders on a swinging platform. Why settle for “normal” difficulty when you can another layer?
Despite the fact that Cirque du Soleil had been going through some financial troubles of late and they have had to cut down on expenses, Kurios has not suffered as a result. It is a sublime demonstration of imagination and allowing the believed impossible to happen is more important that having oodles of cash behind a show.
Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosity continues at the Old Port in the familiar yellow and blue tents until July 13th. You can buy your tickets at www.cirquedusoleil.com .