Step into a cabinet of curiosities; an exotic world of wonder that treads the paths of surrealist dreams beneath the Entertainment Quarter’s Big Top.
Twinkling lights glitter from the canvas canopy to enhance the dreamlike quality. A lone spotlight shines remorselessly upon the main stage; brilliant as a lighthouse amidst the fray of darkness and shadows. Is this bright beam descrying the danger, risk, adversity, and challenge to come? It certainly contributes to the palpable sense of titillation and enchantment.
The transition from the real world into this one has been expeditious and immediate. Entrer: Cirque du Soleil’s 'Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities'.
A dazzling parade of acrobats, gymnasts, aerialists, contortionists, street performers, circus acts – even a yo yo – are overseen by The Seeker, a 1900s mad-scientist character (sporting a rather enviable pompadour slicked to a spike). As the inventor of a machine defying time and space, he opens the world to a dimension of characters paying homage to the human imagination. It’s a poetic storyline that relies on the surreal, dictating a tale of wonder and possibilities with a variety of weird and wonderful tiny stories.
Image - Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil
Each corner of the stage presents an individual scene; a knick knack of wonders personalised by a little tale narrating myth and fancy. The scenes and characters have no beginning or end; they simply are; eternally captured within limelight of this wild cabinet laid bare. It is a multi-dimensional performance, played out larger than life across an array of layers, from the audience to the main stage, above the stage and from the heavens of the Big Top itself. No space is sacred, as each tier is explored and filled to the brim with oddities and explosions of colour.
All Cirque sets are notorious for their elaborate settings, and 'Kurios' continues to standard, revisiting a romanticised Victorian era with labyrinthine mise en scenes awash with steam punk influences. The settings are incredibly intricate in design, featuring bizarre robots, clockwork gadgets, electric gizmos, and steam-powered gear; all mysterious and thrilling without taking away from the stories upon the main stage. It’s 'The Prestige', Nikola Tesla, 'Dark City' and 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' all rolled into one, engulfed by a darkly intricate score of tight live orchestration, refined lighting, fantastic engineering and prodigious costumes.
Image - D-CORD <Keiju Takenaka> Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2018 Cirque du Soleil
It goes without saying the performance skills are incrediblé. Created and directed by Michel Laprise, with sets designed by Stephane Roy, costumes by Philippe Guillotel and the score composed by Raphael Beau, Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard; the production genuinely is out-of-this-world. But while the skills on display are awe-inspiring, it is just as much the skills and engineering behind-the-scenes that make the show. From set manipulations to sound and lighting design, choreographers and rigging, the attention to detail is marvellous. Even the live music of electro-swing fused with jazz led by Marc Sohier and fronted by singer Sophie Guay is a wonder within itself; all the more impressive given the need for Sohier’s constant awareness of the performers to keep the music on cue. It’s certainly one of the tightest live scores, brashly led by a solid rhythm section.
Indeed, the attention to detail is truly breathtaking, particularly with costuming from the meeting of back seams in pants to bodice ruffles, gentlemen’s frock coats, full bustles, gramophone-adorning fascinators, swimming costumes and embellished leotards. The meticulousness carries across even to the souvenir programme, unfolding each character and their place within the show. If there is so much consideration on the programme, what else can this show be capable of? A great deal.
This is a production that defies time, space and dimension, overwhelming the human consciousness as a riot of glorious, colourful adventures.