Three decades on from its beginnings in Québec, Canada, Cirque du Soleil remains a theatrical entertainment provider like no other.

Originally a group of 20 street performers, the company today employees almost 4,000 people including 1,300 performing artists from more than 50 countries. To date, 155 million people have attended one of their performances, staged in more than 300 cities in over 40 countries. Cirque performs on every continent except Antarctica (and given the organisation’s seemingly endless reach, one wonders for how long that fact will remain true!)

In Australia, audiences around the country have been spectators at local Cirque du Soleil performances since Saltimbanco arrived on our shores back in 1999. Quidam, which is currently in the middle of an Australia and New Zealand tour, is not in its premiere season here. In fact, it was performed across the country under Cirque’s Grand Chapiteau several years ago.

But in 2010, Cirque converted Quidam – one of its classic and most-loved works – into an arena touring production, and that’s precisely the show we have the chance to see in local venues in the weeks to come. The show’s international cast features 46 acrobats, musicians, singers and characters.

Quidam by Cirque du Soleil_Banquine_0142 Photo by Matt Beard

Cast members of Quidam by Cirque Du Soleil (Photo: Matt Beard, Costumes : Dominique Lemieux ©2011 Cirque du Soleil)

One might ask what the point of difference is between Quidam and the 19 other shows the company currently has on stages around the world, or other works in their collection that have now been retired. Ordinarily, it’s the charge of Cirque to whisk its audiences away into an imaginary realm of fanciful, larger-than-life characters. In contrast, it’s Quidam’s remit to analyse our own world, both its people and challenges they face.

The central narrative focuses on Zoé, a bored young child ignored by her distant and apathetic parents, whose life has lost all meaning. In efforts to fill that void, she slips into an imaginary world in which characters encourage her to free her soul. It’s the world of Quidam, providing a space for people to be genuinely individual and distinguish themselves from the faceless masses.

The journey through Quidam (roughly 2 hours in duration) is never dull. As any Cirque du Soleil offering tends to do, the ephemeral experience offered in Quidam involves a journey into a dream world you likely won’t want to leave.

The performing artists don’t leave audiences with any shortage of ‘wow’ moments (particularly in Act II). Early on, one aerial artist impresses through an acrobatic and contortion routine performed with silks that could even best popstar Pink. Later, on there’s a team of 20 artists tasked with navigating a series of ropes to play the most complex game of jump rope you’re ever likely to see.

Quidam Photo 3

Cast members of Quidam by Cirque Du Soleil (Photo: Matt Beard, Costumes : Dominique Lemieux ©2011 Cirque du Soleil)

The two greatest standout moments, however, come later in Quidam. The first involves two acrobats, exhibiting strength rarely seen outside of a bodybuilding contest, pulling off a balancing act that needs to be seen to be believed. Don’t bother searching for any wires. Those efforts will prove fruitless. The magic of this act is all down to the skills of these phenomenally trained artists.

But nothing in Quidam is as genuinely draw-jopping as ‘Banquine’, an act involving 15 artists. They perform several sequences of acrobatics that include the creation of human pyramids, and will leave you astounded by the literal height to which they are able to take one performer. It’s a knockout series of tricks perfectly placed at the tail end of the show.

Aside from the acrobatics, Quidam is a wonderful display of contemporary dance, and consistently throughout, lead performers delight with excellent execution of their whimsical characters. Their circus characters are never obnoxious or overbearing, but rather cheeky and endearing. Zoe (Alessandra Gonzalez) also reveals herself as a lovely vocalist. Her sweet and gentle deliveries provide a perfect contrast to Jamieson Lindenburg’s commanding adult male tones. Lindenburg takes the lion’s share of singing and displays great versatility in range.

The score is rich in eclectic blends of instrumentation and style, reflecting each corner of the globe that’s had the fortune of hosting Cirque’s various works. Composer Benoît Jutras has proven time and time again, during his two decades with Cirque, that he has a knack for the art of creating soundscapes for other worldly domains. Quidam is no exception. Jutras draws us in from opener ‘Atmadja’, with its eerie choral vocals, luscious strings and powerful percussion. And he keeps us in until the lights go up at the end of the evening, when the title track serves as a moving and meaningful concluding piece. The music of Quidam is performed by a superb six-piece live band.

Quidam Photo 2

Cast members of Quidam by Cirque Du Soleil (Photo: Matt Beard, Costumes : Dominique Lemieux ©2011 Cirque du Soleil)

The show is capped off by artfully conceived and executed design elements, which effectively evoke the dream world of Quidam. Michel Crête has constructed a minimalist set, dominated by a giant arch, that effectively enlivens an evanescent environment, where characters come and go without warning (as if in a dream).

Dominique Lemieux is responsible for Quidam’s 2,500 costume pieces. Lemieux has used everyday clothing – in adapted form – in the show’s acrobatic acts, and it’s a clever choice to convey that all of the characters are themselves ‘quidams’ –individuals who have realised their potential and done what was needed to emerge from anonymity. Lead character Zoe is suitably adorned in rich shades of each primary colour, and some of its other most prominent players – ‘Mark’ the MC and Zoe’s companion ‘The Target’ – are recognisably circus-eque, but perhaps lean more towards looking how circus characters may manifest in our dreams.

Lighting here has been designed by Luc Lafortune, who uses floor projection to great effect, but does opt for lighting choices that, occasionally, are perhaps a little too dark.

All in all, Cirque du Soleil has continued to achieve its mission to invoke imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world. Quidam succeeds on each of those fronts, and leaves a refreshing taste in one’s mouth, ready to savour whichever work the Cirque team intends to serve up next for Australian audiences.

Quidam by Cirque du Soleil

VENUE: WIN Entertainment Centre, Corner Crown & Harbour Streets, Wollongong

SHOW SCHEDULE:

Saturday 26 December 4.30pm & 8pm

Sunday 27 December 1.30pm & 5pm

Tuesday 29 December 8pm

Wednesday 30 December 4.30pm & 8pm

Thursday 31 December 2.30pm & 6pm

Friday 1 January 4.30pm

Saturday 2 January 1pm, 4.30pm & 8pm

TICKETS: $75 to $165 with discounts for children aged 2 to 12 years and Groups 12+

For complete show and ticket information, please visit:

www.cirquedusoleil.com/quidam

www.ticketmaster.com.au

Phone: 136 100

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