Kooza | Cirque du Soleil


Kooza | Cirque du SoleilLeft – Wheel of death artists. Photo – Matt Beard. Costumes – Marie Chantale Vaillancourt. Cover – Wheel of Death. Photo – Tomas Correa Arce. Costumes – Marie Chantale Vaillancourt

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Ever wanted to run away to the circus? Well, if you actually want to take part in these spectacularly death-defying feats with breathtaking grace, you’d doubtlessly need years of training on top of an immense amount of innate skill. Because these amazing performers achieve gravity-spurning feats of peril that would seem outlandish if you saw a stuntman performing them in a computer-effects-enhanced superhero movie. Yet here they are doing it for real, right in front of your eyes, and frequently with very little in the way of safety nets or pads to catch them if they were to fall. Live theatre doesn’t get much more immediate than this, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Fortunately for the less nimble and more risk-averse amongst us, we can still run away to the circus for at least one night, if only to sit in the tent with bated breath and watch those who can, and do, so astonishingly well. Kooza is the latest in the seemingly endless series of Cirque du Soleil’s internationally touring shows, and is an absolute delight. For anyone unfamiliar with this three decade success story, Cirque du Soleil is a company originating in Québec which departs from many of the traditional old-timey conventions of circus, in favour of showcasing the physical arts amongst an immersive, stylishly theatrical production design. Do not expect to see performing animals, moustachioed strongmen, ladies being sawn in half or escapists in tanks of water, much less the hucksterism of any Barnum and Baileyesque ringmasters.

Instead we are treated to a mute master of ceremonies that seems to have more in common with the winsome and whimsical trickster figures of a Venetian carnival or South American Mardi Gras. Commedia dell’arte is obviously a strong influence on the “house style” of these troupes, while their Francophile roots are equally strong, yet many cultural influences are evident in Kooza, from Mexican Day of the Dead stylings, Chinese circus traditions, pagan imagery, touches of Fin de siècle early cinema and even Steampunk flourishes to name but a few. This melange of stylistic references and minimal reliance on the spoken word is surely no small part of their tremendous international success. As a largely nonverbal form of visually spectacular, richly costumed and heavily production-designed and musically accompanied physical performance, this is the type of show that can reach across cultures and continents with ease and appeal to wide audiences.

The circus acts themselves are primarily what could be broadly described as acrobatics, punctuated by some semi-traditional clowning interludes, and framed by a loose, barely-narrative thread of a non-speaking youthful innocent and obvious child/audience surrogate. This kite-flying “boy” interacts with the performers in a state of rapt wonder, as wryly enticed by the lithe aforementioned roguish MC figure, who would probably be most accurately described as a dancer. The acrobatics, however, take many forms, as “variety” is, as ever, the watchword of such a performance genre.

From contortionists to tightrope walkers, to those somersaulting off catapults, every act is unique in the skills it demonstrates, and all are impressive displays of physical virtuosity. While some impress with visual flair and dexterity such as juggling shiny hula-hoops or nimbly swinging from a suspended ring, others rely on the quieter tension and amazement at the physical strain and potential danger of the acts. These include feats of extreme balance such as doing handstands on a dozen unsupported chairs stacked vertically, or a unicyclist juggling a partner acrobat. Although the whole show is shot through with a fine sense of winking humour, one’s tolerance for the comedic antics of the trio of clowns will depend on one’s taste for somewhat infantile (if slightly off-colour) slapstick and awkward audience interaction, but at least the “creepy clown” tropes are avoided.

Undoubtedly though, the biggest showstoppers involve the most extreme combinations of energy, danger, and visual appeal, such as the high-wire hijinks, and especially the two devil-themed acrobats who run around, jump-rope through, and leap off a massive rotating scaffold which should best be described as a “spinning double hamster wheel of death”. Hearing the audience around you wince, gasp, curse and cheer as these performers top themselves over and over again in seemingly impossible feats of agility, balance and daring is almost as much fun as the pulse-quickening act of actually watching it take place, unbelievably, before your very eyes.

If you have seen other Cirque du Soleil shows before, Kooza may not be a revelatory reinvention as opposed to a worthy perpetuation of a superbly professional brand, but it is certain to be extremely entertaining nevertheless. For those who have never seen a modern circus spectacular, and especially for children, this densely visual, deeply entertaining show comes highly recommended indeed. Let this colourful cavalcade of characters take you away to fantasy-land for a couple of breathless, engrossing hours of delightful magic.


Cirque du Soleil presents
KOOZA

2016/2017 Australian Tour

Sydney From August 25 2016, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Brisbane From November 24 2016, Skygate Brisbane Airport (near DFO)
Melbourne From January 20 2017, Flemington Racecourse
Perth From April 13 2017, Belmont Park Racecourse, Victoria Park Drive (off Farmer Freeway), Burswood

Bookings/Info www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza

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