REVIEWER RATING: ★★★★.5
KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production since its first audience in 1984. Over the past two decades, Sydney has been a tour stop for many of the Montreal-based entertainer’s spectacles and now, under a brand-new white and grey big top at the Entertainment Quarter, KURIOS is the latest work to land on our doorstep, comprising a cast of 46 artists from 16 countries. And even though Cirque has invited us into so many of their worlds of whimsy before, KURIOS is arguably one of the best productions the company has staged in Australia to date.
Written and directed by Michel Laprise (whose credits include tour director of Madonna’s 2012 MDNA World Tour), the show takes place on a set that its designer, Stéphane Roy, describes as ‘Jules Verne meets Thomas Edison in an alternate reality, out of time’. The ingenious ‘seeker’ is convinced there’s a secret world in an ornate curio cabinet and is soon whisked into a steampunk realm that’s home to an array of ethereal characters, who delight with their exceptional acrobatic prowess and ultimately speak to the endless possibilities unleashed when curiosity is acted upon.
It may sound like Cirque du Soleil shows you’ve seen before, but there’s so much to see here that impresses and helps KURIOS to leave an impression more lasting than most previous outings. The breathtaking, edge-of-your seat acrobatics (particularly in the show’s first half) build effectively, accompanied by a stirring score from Raphaël Beau, performed by a talented team of musicians and vocalists. In Philippe Guillotel’s wonderful costumes, you’ll find nods to our eighteenth and nineteenth century world revolutionised by technnological progress, Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi silent feature Metropolis, as well as a rich colour palette, beautifully bringing to life endearing otherworldly characters. Martin Labrecque’s lighting enhances moments of tension effectively, while also flaunting Guillotel’s stunning costumes (there are more than 100 in this show). The contortion act, involving four electric eels, is not only a triumph because of its performers’ skills, but because of its spectacular combination of costuming and light.
When it comes to individual acts throughout KURIOS, it’s difficult to settle on a single highlight. Perhaps it’s the stylish but perilous ‘Upside down world’, in which performers pile chairs high in an attempt to reach a parallel but inverse scene playing out on the ceiling of the big top. Rola Bola has ‘the aviator’ demonstrating remarkable balancing skills, while Acro Net is a delightful display of advanced trampolining. But it could also be Banquine that deserves top honours, owing to the 13 artists’ superbly synchronised acrobatics.
Moments of audience participation typically aren’t a highlight of Cirque du Soleil productions and KURIOS is no exception. But it’s a minor criticism – this is a show that has so many highpoints and genuine surprise across 130 minutes, reinforcing why Cirque du Soleil continues to bring in audiences the world over after 35 years.
Even if you’ve visited a Cirque du Soleil troupe under the big top in recent years, KURIOS is worth a return visit. It’s an immensely entertaining exhibition of first-class gymnastic skills and imaginative production design, and a successful showcase of joy that can be borne out of curiosity.
KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities (AUSTRALIAN TOUR DETAILS)
Venue: Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Dates: Playing now until Sunday 24 November 2019
Venue: Northshore Hamilton, Brisbane
Dates: From Friday 10 January 2020
Venue: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Dates: From Thursday 12 March 2020
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Venue: Adelaide Showgrounds, Adelaide
Dates: From May 29 2020