Canada’s global entertainment behemoth Cirque du Soleil has been a regular visitor to these shores.
I’ve lost count of how may productions I’ve seen – beginning with Saltimbanco in 1999 – and, to be honest, kurios is about the last thing I feel about the company’s sleekly seductive cirque nouveau extravaganzas.
There is always room for surprise, however, and this beautifully designed steampunk-inspired showcase – Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production since its founding in 1984 – delivers plenty of them.
Written and directed by Michel Laprise with creative director Chantal Tremblay, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosity displays a vividness and wit that some of the company’s offerings (Dralion, for example) have lacked.
Kurios invites its audience into a Jules Verne-inspired future-past of bumbling domestic robots, potty scientists and gramophone-meets-typewriter technologies. The set, props and costumes designed by Stephane Roy and Phillippe Guillotel are fantastically detailed, delightful and transporting, as is the soundtrack played by a live band.
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The acts are of wonderful quality and even routines the likes of which you’ve seen before are given a novel twist. French performer Anne Weissbecker performs a graceful aerial ballet with a bicycle. And what at first glance appears to be a fairly standard chair tower routine (featuring Andrii Bondarenko) is made exponentially more interesting and surreal when its mirror image starts to descend from the top of the Grand Chapiteau.
If you are a circus regular, chances are you’ve seen a rola-bola act that has its performer balancing on boxes and steel cylinders. Chances are you haven’t seen it done on a flying bedstead swooping through the auditorium. Bravo James Gonzalez Correa.
True to Cirque du Soleil form, there’s much whimsy in the show, too, and here it’s mostly entertaining. Facundo Gimenez’s Invisible Circus invites you to imagine its performers (and a runaway lion) in full flight. Later, hand puppeteer Nico Baxias takes his fingers for a walk and into a poignant little adventure projected onto a hot air balloon.
In between acts, characters (“inhabitants of a country called Curiosistan”) enact dumb shows. What they’re up to isn’t always clear but you can’t help but admire their costumes, especially that of Mr Microcosmos, whose steam boiler stomach is home to the diminutive Mini Lilli, a character played by 100cm tall performer Rima Hadchiti.
Act I is somewhat stronger in terms of impact than Act II, thanks in no small measure to Russian acrobat-contortionists Imin Tsydendambaeva, Bayarma Zodboeva Parry, Ayagma Tsybenova and Serchmaa Bayarsaikhan, who create fabulous, wriggling forms atop a giant mechanical hand.
Even so, Kurios captivates for its two-hour duration and, under this colossal tent, there isn’t really a bad seat in the house.