With much anticipation, on a balmy Melbourne evening, I headed out to Flemington Racecourse to see Cirque du Soleil’s latest offering, Kooza in their trademark blue-and-yellow big top. Over the past 18 years, I have been fortunate to see seven of their eight big top shows that have toured Australia: Saltimbanco, Alegria, Dralion, Verakai, OVO, TOTEM, and now, Kooza.
Since its premiere in Montréal in 2007, more than 7 million people in over 52 cities in 17 countries have been taken on Kooza’s mesmerising journey, and it is easy to see why? Spectacular design, brilliant costumes, breathtaking athleticism, set against an original soundtrack. Cirque du Soleil knows how to deliver.
Created and directed by David Shiner, Kooza features an international cast of 50 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers in a two hour presentation that is a colourful, sparkling homage to the traditions of circus, combining thrilling acrobatics with the art of clowning.
Shiner’s narrative is nothing short of spectacular providing an opportunity to showcase the virtuosity of Kooza’s collection of acrobats and aerial artists, uni-cyclists, jugglers, and other performers (musicians, singers and clowns). Drawing inspiration from the Sanskrit word, koza – meaning chest or treasure, the show follows the journey of The Innocent (Vladislav Zolotarev), bringing him into contact with a motley cast of comic characters including the Trickster (Mike Tyus) The King (Ghislain Ramage), and the Court Clowns (Miguel Berlanga and Michael Garner).
Highlights are a plenty, as each act ups the ante, eliciting audible gasps of amazement and delight. Bookending the show is the ‘house troupe’ as they balance and form human pyramids in a Charivari, or fly through the air (some on stilts) aided by a teeterboard – an acrobatic apparatus that resembles a playground seesaw.
Mongolian Contortion artists Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan and Ninjin Altankhuyag work in unison to create tableaux of astonishing beauty. China’s Yao Deng Bo demonstrates complete mind and muscular control as he builds a 7 metre tower aided only by balancing chairs. Canada’s Marie-Eve Bisson delights with the Aerial Hoop, as does Russian duo, Yury Shavro and Olga Tutynina on the unicycle, while Irina Akimova manipulates a plethora of hoops
But it’s the ‘twin high wire’ and the ‘wheel of death’ that provides the heart-stopping moments of the night. A single high wire is standard fare in today’s modern circus. Kooza takes it to the next level, adding another wire, as four tightrope walkers, Vincente Quiros Dominguez, Roberto Quiros Dominguez, Brayhan Sanchez and Flouber Sanchez, thrill and delight, balancing their weight across the taut wires that also features a bicycle. Not to be out done, Colombian artists, Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis provide a death-defying display of astonishing teamwork, as they leap and rotate at heart-stopping speeds, the wheel of death – a device that resembles an over-sized double-ended spanner.
Stéphane Roy’s design evokes a town square – an open stage that allows the audience terrific views of the performance area, no matter where you sit. Central to the design is the Bataclan, a tower that is flanked by two curved staircase, that moves in and out, revealing artists as required. Its decoration inspired by Hindu culture and Indian jewellery, it also serves as the bandstand featuring Kooza’s 6 musicians and 2 singers.
Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt’s eye-catching costumes have also been inspired by a variety of sources that includes the painter Klimt, the Mad Max movies, ancient designs from India and Eastern Europe in a mash-up of Baron Munchausen meets the Wizard of Oz.
Kooza illustrates why Cirque du Soleil still has the ability to delight the young and those of us who are young-at-heart with some truly remarkable circus acts while pulling out a few breathtaking surprises or two.
Cirque du Soleil: KOOZA
Big Top – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 20 January 2017 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 26 March 2017
Big Top – Belmont Park Racecourse, Perth
Season: 13 April – 7 May 2017
Information and Bookings: www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza
Image: Double High Wire – photo by Matt Beard / Costume: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt © 2012 Cirque du Soleil
Review: Rohan Shearn