Seen in Atlanta, Georgia, February 18, 2009
There are apparently two types of people: those that think Cirque du Soleil is pretentious colorful twaddle and those who think it’s fantastic and extraordinarily entertaining. I fall into the latter category. I’ve enjoyed every Cirque show I’ve hit since seeing Quidam on tour many moons ago and while I’ve liked some shows more than others, Cirque is a lot like sex: the worst I’ve ever had is pretty good.
For the uninitiated, Cirque–when you boil it down to its basest elements–is an excuse to put on a spectacle with transforming stages, excellent music and performers who can do things that make you want to start working out. Or jogging. Or at least eating more bran. Or…something. Anything. Because what they do is…just flat out ridiculous. Every Cirque show I’ve seen something that’s just mind-bogglingly wild and yes, even a bit magical to one as cynical as I.
[ad#longpost]Cirque shows have only the vaguest notions of an actual plot–it’s more a setup with some characters and even a few clowns, all of which get out of the way when it’s time to blow your mind with another act. In this case, it’s probably the closest we’ve come to a plot (for one of the touring shows, at least) since Quidam–and that’s probably why I like it so much. In this case, an Innocent is delivered a Trickster in a box, who opens up the mad world of Kooza, populated by a whacked out king, a kickass band, skeletons and so forth. Through the story the Innocent gets a magic wand or something and there’s a pickpocket and…well, it’s sort of hopeless to relate all of this because the plot is not even the icing on the cake, it’s just the cool icing flower off in the corner that you want somebody to save for you.
The acts involved are a series of tumblers who spring around on a carried trampoline and also roll around on giant balls–called the Charivari. I believe that’s Italian for “They Who Tumble With Giant Balls.” There’s also a trio of contortionists who apparently can shunt their internal organs into hyperspace, allowing them to pretzelize themselves, smiling all the while. There’s a double high wire act–and I won’t spoil their finale, but they’re the perfect example of how to work up a Cirque routine. Do something routine that we’ve all seen before…then do it cooler…or more intense…and then repeat about three times…then do something that just makes people gnaw on their own knuckles in sheer disbelief. Or, in a pinch, the knuckles of others. There’s also the aforementioned skeleton routine, which involves somebody (who I thought was the Trickster in a different outfit–maybe it was) in probably the coolest coat this side of Neverwhere‘s Marquis. There’s also a badass juggler, a guy who balances on chairs (lots of chairs) and more teeterboard tumbling. The one act that didn’t seem to measure up was the trapeze act–and I got the feeling there was simply something wrong the evening we saw it. Hard to say what exactly, but it seemed like she wasn’t up to snuff for that night and thus didn’t try anything too-too crazy. To put it in perspective, I mean “crazy for Cirque,” since the idea of getting on a trapeze and flipping around at all is pretty crazy for us relatively normal types.
Also of note are the two acts I enjoyed the most: Angelo Lyerzhysky and Jimmy Ibarra Zapata’s Wheel of Death routine, which…hell, how do I describe this? It’s like a double hamster wheel suspended over the stage, except the hamsters are dressed like angry satanic panthers and can run either around the inside or outside of the wheels while the whole double-wheel contraption is spinning like mad. Make sense? No? Probably for the best. It’s amazing, regardless. There’s also Diana Aleshchenko and Yury Shavro’s Unicycle Duo routine. Shavro is on a unicycle. Aleshchenko joins him on the unicycle. Sometimes they’re dancing, sometimes Shavro is spinning his partner around his head while still wheeling around the stage. I can barely balance on two wheels. Hell, three wheels. So this was probably the most unique thing of the evening.
I found the entire show worthwhile and it definitely was on the high end of Cirque shows I’ve seen. I would recommend catching it on one of its tour stops or wait and it will eventually hit DVD.