From Varekai to Dralion and Ovo to Totem, Australia has been lucky enough to have its fair share of Cirque du Soleil productions make their way to our country under the famed Grand Chapiteau across the last decade. But their latest – Kooza – which premiered in Sydney on Thursday ahead of a lengthy national tour, may just be the best and most awe-inspiring production the Montreal born company have ever brought to this country.
What makes Kooza work so well is its balance (no pun intended). Where other shows have plenty of fat to trim, or the odd “we’ve seen this too many times before” moment, Kooza – under the artistic direction of David Shiner – has perfected the touring Cirque production, never missing a beat along the way. It ticks all the right boxes, showing a carefully considered balance between the moments that leave your jaw on the floor, and the more traditional circus fare that sees the crowd included in the performance courtesy of the show’s “King” and “Clowns” (pictured in the article’s header). As Shiner was once a clown himself, he’s lent this experience into the heartbeat of the show, and it works marvelously well.
Throughout the show, we enjoy ten acrobatic acts, all of which inspire nothing but awe. As someone who has seen a lot of Cirques both in Australia and around the world, I feel by now I’ve come to know what to expect from a show like this. Yes, it’s often dressed up differently, with different music, and different characters – but at its heart, the acrobatics are incredibly similar. Here, however, everything is taken up a notch, and it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the excitement of it all.
Whether it’s someone wearing the stilts as they somersault across the stage, landing on a mat (as happens in the show’s “Teeterboard” finale); adding a chair, fencing swords and bikes to a duel high wire (pictured above); or a double wheel of death (pictured below) that just keeps getting more and more high paced as the show’s brilliant score builds – nothing happens as you expect and everything is engineered to amaze. There are genuine screams of fright and/or delight from the crowd at more than a few moments of the show, as the cast continually blow expectations out the door.
There’s even a story you can relatively follow, with a world created by a “trickster” for an “innocent” that gradually unravels. Stéphane Roy’s stage design allows us to be a part of this world in a magnificent way, with a traditional circus ring sitting at the tent’s centre, while a booming tower (called the “bataclan”) stands behind it; a structure which houses the fantastic band, vocalists and often some of the show’s key characters.
Elsewhere in the show you’ll see a balancing act on chairs that keeps pushing higher than you ever thought possible, an incredible hoops act from Irina Akimova, a contortion duo who may enter your nightmares, and a unicycle duo who do some incredible feats (to say the least). And there’s a surprising amount of dancing along the way too – providing a fun and festive atmosphere to the show in well choreographed numbers that add their own kind of spectacle, and maintain the show’s impressive array of visual delights.
By the time the show wraps up, its only crime is that it’s over. Both my friend and I looked at our watches and couldn’t believe how quickly it had flown by. This is as perfect as a Cirque du Soleil show you’re ever going to see in Australia, and I’ve never experienced one better. Whether it’s your first time, or if you’ve seen multiple productions in the past, this is the Cirque that you can’t miss.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The writer attended the opening night of Kooza under the Grand Chapiteau in Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter on Thursday, August 25th, where it remains until November 6th. It then tours to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Grab yourself more details and tickets HERE.
Photo Credit: Cirque du Soleil