Varekai means ''wherever'' in the Romany language of the gypsies - the universal wanderers. Amongst the acrobatics weaves a storyline, of nomadic souls whose quests lead them to Varekai.
At the centre of the show are acrobats, dancers, singers, musicians, clowns and actors at the pinnacle of their art. The Cirque du Soleil casting team, based in Montreal, combs the world in search of skilled artists and acrobats, attending major sporting events, as well as various international circus festivals to discover new talent. To keep up with the demand of the growing number of Cirque du Soleil projects this means finding several hundred artists each year.
The Grand Chapiteau is unlike the cold and musty circus tents I remember as a child. This one is warm, comfortable and elegant. From the costumes to the set design and lighting displays the show oozes extravagance. This was confirmed during intermission when I poked my way around the various costume and interpretive displays on view. The manufacturing of the costumes is complex, with the attention to detail impressive. Costume designer Eiko Ishioka is herself the recipient of various awards and credited with the Academy Award for costume design in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The expected effects of pooling such creative talent behind the scenes and on stage deliver the sort of show you would anticipate - spectacular and spellbinding.
The use of mythical language and sound effects by performers and singers is judicious, and suits the international flavour of the Cirque du Soleil clan which represent a multitude of nationalities. Innovative props and original techniques, part of the Cirque du Soleil signature, breathe life into otherwise run-of-the-mill trapeze and air acrobatic routines. Some characters are more compelling than others; the yellow caterpillar, played by Irina Naumenko, did not only display amazing agility but was particularly well acted out, and I was absolutely mesmerised by the three young water meteors, the ‘babies’ of the troupe. Their precision, poise and performance abilities were captivating.
Throughout the stage show the focus switches between acrobatic amazement and the central tale of Icarus, the winged youth who finds himself thrown into the depths of a magical forest. My interest in the characters left me wanting the storyline explored in more detail. However, I could appreciate that the visual stunts were the main attraction. The piece is broken up by the appearance of the 'clowns' - Varekai's ode to true circus tradition - though thankfully don't expect the red honky-nosed and curly-haired type. Their slapstick routines and audience participation don't steal the show but provide a light interlude which helps break up the intense action.
The storyline and subsequent acrobatics flow with unwavering energy, building to a spectacular climax. The finale is a showcase of vivid colour and amazing (and at times nerve racking!) aerial leaps from giant metallic swings that wouldn’t be out of place on the set of a Mad Max film.
Varekai proves that Cirque du Soleil is a fascinating institution. Although it faces the risk of its reputation preceding it, I wasn’t disappointed with my first glimpse into its world of wonder.
Cirque du Soleil presents
Venue: Bonython Park, Port Road, Adelaide
Dates: Tues - Sun, July 5 - August 4, 2007
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 130 300 or www.ticketek.com.au