Circus rolls in with new tricks and old hits
CIRQUE Du Soleil goes back to its roots with Kooza, its latest show to hit our shores. The acclaimed production, which showcases traditional circus arts like the high wire, the unicycle and clowning, opens in Brisbane next week after a successful Australian debut season in Sydney.
"Australians generally are so loyal and good to us,” company manager Genevieve Deslandes, a Canadian who now calls Sydney home, tells Weekend.
"They're very vocal if it's good or bad, so we know where we stand. Feedback is the most important thing.”
If you've never seen a Cirque Du Soleil show before - the Toronto-based company has nearly two dozen productions currently touring worldwide - then Kooza is a good place to start.
The show appeals to your inner child through its central character of The Innocent, who is drawn into a world filled with amazingly talented performers and cheeky clowns.
"It's very different (from our other shows) because it's the return to the traditional circus arts,” Genevieve says.
"We don't ask the Quiros family on the high wire to pretend to be animals. Nobody's pretending to be characters except the lead characters and clowns. I think that changes the dynamics a lot on stage. You really focus on the skills.”
And some of those skills will have you gasping in awe. The high-flying acrobatics in the opening Charivari act are just a teaser of some of the physical feats to come.
The first act finishes on a high, with the double high wire during which the Spanish and Columbian performers don't just walk across the wires - they run and even ride a bike.
The second act will jolt you out of the post-intermission lull with the one-two punch of a busy, dazzling skeleton dance followed by my personal highlight of the night: the Wheel of Death.
Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis, who developed the act in their native Columbia before joining Cirque, are masters of their large, spinning wheels. The size of the metal contraption is impressive in itself, let alone the airborne manoeuvres Jimmy and Ronald complete inside and on top of it.
"I never relax until I know the guys are off the wheel,” Genevieve says. "The sheer height of the wheel makes it dangerous, then they go and dance and jump (on it).”
And of course no circus show would be complete without contortionists. I usually get quite squeamish during contortion acts but I found Kooza's Mongolian performers mesmerising.
The show's three clowns, plus their Mad Dog companion, provide the comic relief in between the thrills.
Popping up throughout the show, these clowns are a lot funnier (and ruder) than I expected.
Gordon White's ringmaster character has an air of Barry Humphries about him and his two sidekicks pile on the slapstick.
The unrivalled quality of a Cirque show extends beyond the abilities of the performers to the supporting elements of music, lighting and costumes.
Kooza features a staggering 3500 costumes, many personalised to each individual performer using body scanning and, in the case of masks and head pieces, 3D printing.
It's this attention to detail behind the scenes that helps to make Cirque the world leader in circus arts.
If, like me, you found Cirque's previous show Totem a bit overly complicated and unevenly paced, then you should enjoy Kooza's singular vision.
The show, which was created in 2007, will celebrate its 10th anniversary during its Perth season in April but it is still evolving.
Marie-Eve Bisson's flying hoop act Cerceau was only added earlier this year.
"Even if it's no longer a newborn, we're still adding things to it and playing with it,” Genevieve says.
"We're continuously evolving the music and changing the acts. Some of our shows tour for 20 years so we're only half-way in its life cycle. I think we have another good 10 years in us.”
Kooza is a magical night out under the big top with enough thrills, laughs and spills to keep the entire family entertained.
- Kooza plays under the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) daily and twice daily on weekends and select week days before and after Christmas.
- Tickets start from $60, with a 20% discount on family bookings for selected dates, at cirquedusoleil.com/kooza.
- VIP Rogue ticket packages include a cocktail reception and canapes before the show and during intermission and access to private bathrooms and terrace.
You can see Kooza at Skygate near the Brisbane Airport DFO from Thursday to January 8.