Cirque du Soleil is hit and miss. For over 35 years, French Canadian street performers-turned businessmen Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix have been growing as the largest circus producer in the world, now a global brand that has tours running across the world and Las Vegas residencies. However more and more the brand has become known for its successes and its failings in almost equal part – the Cirque du Soleil name has a certain weight that other performance productions don’t, and the formula hasn’t changed all too often.
Since the company’s first visit in 1999, Cirque du Soleil has become a constant figure in Australian entertainment with regular tours, and the return in 2019 with Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities is no different. The show follows the typical format of Cirque: drawing spectacle and performances out of a central theme, usually more abstract than a European indie film. Fortunately Kurios is full of life and vibrant in a way that some of Cirque’s other productions have lacked the heart or drama of a circus. At times the company have sacrificed storytelling and depth for beauty, but Kurios feels somewhere before the modern circus expected in the wake of The Greatest Showman revival of circus fairs, and the traditional acts.
There’s still the acrobatics, the clowns, live band echoing through the Big Top, incredible costumes and makeup. Kurios succeeds in capturing the imagination of the audience and is reminiscent of steampunk/gothic design, part-A Series of Unfortunate Events and part-Around The World in 80 Days.
As mentioned, costumes are superb and outlandish to an extent. Invention is at the heart of the story and it’s good to see this echoed in the production itself as well. It doesn’t have as much colour as 2016’s Kooza. But instead, it looks more at staging and experiments with the medium in a way I think hasn’t been the centre of Cirque’s interest in past years.
On the acts side, there is the usuals: contortion, clown acts, balancing acts, but there is also new including a few aerial performances which dazzle and a yo-yo moment that is such a crowd pleaser. Some fall flat: the clown embarrassing an audience member onstage and an “invisible circus” goes far too long to be enjoyed by anyone than a young child.
The central theme is a bit more confusing for the average viewer and I think the production doesn’t give enough time to explore it or have much character development as a result. It’s a loose narrative that frequent Cirque visitors would be aware of, but it’s almost a little too vague here. The music makes up for this, with its jazz and electro vibe.
It’s not an explosive new show but it’s an above average rendition from the Cirque du Soleil team. The production takes you into a new world where the performers are at perfect ease and do the tricks without much stress. It’s an enjoyable time out for the family and what more could you ask for really?
Excellent production and art design, with a dazzling musical accompaniment. The performers know exactly what to do and do it with such ease.
No acts that really get your heart racing and a lack of a cohesive narrative are the few distractions in this production. Keep upping the ante Cirque du Soleil.
Originally published on Back Row, 11 November 2019.