Cirque Du Soleil: Kooza
Saturday, April 22, 2017
How does one review a near-perfect show? With every superlative in one’s blistered hands after applauding all of your soul out of the body, that’s how. Cirque du Soleil: Kooza is the manifestation of a child’s dreams, brought to life before your eyes. It is wonder and joy and fantasy and super human feats wrapped up in the giant bow that is a superbly produced, tightly directed set which presents circus as a modernistic impressionist’s reverie. Cirque du Soleil is what all shows should aspire to – uplifting, inspiring and leaves audiences in nothing less than enthralled rapture for days. It gives the audience life and invigorates the spirit in every possible way.
Kooza explores the journey of The Innocent as he discovers the world through circus, presented to him in a box which explodes into a circus-palooza. The title Kooza is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza”, which translates as “box”, “chest” or “treasure”. It’s fairly literal, quite loose thematically and weak in consistency by comparison to other Cirque shows, with the only real connection to the story being The Innocent, as he is guided by ringmaster The Trickster (a character so devoid of emotion it’s impossible to relate to his smug, unsmiling face – just show me some teeth, dammit!). However, the show is otherwise as flawless as one expects from the premiere circus troupe in the world.
Good circus gives the illusion of being easy and fluid. Great circus adds frenetic energy to the mix. Kooza is almost violent in its ardour, jolting the audience out of their comfort zones from the get-go and maintaining the dynamism throughout. Commencing with the usual audience involvement and some particularly brilliant clowning worthy of a crowning, we are merely giddily grinning putty in their irreverent hands. The lyra (aerial hoop) act is a fine example of the dexterous brutality of Kooza. Lyra can almost seem dull to the circus connoisseur, unfortunately, as the beauty of it lies in the illusion of completely effortless control of the apparatus and self. This particular performer doesn’t just glide through the air, throwing stunning shapes, but agitates the audience into becoming completely engaged in terror. It’s alarming majesty, and a welcome surprise.
The opening acrobats leave the audience yearning for more. The costumes opulent, the choreography absolutely on point, they are astounding perfection in feats of seemingly impossible strength. Their extraordinary encore appearance in the second act leads one to believe that circus dreams really do come true. Catapulted into the air in series of feats that leaves the audience clutching at their pearls, they are nothing short of heart-stopping. BYO pace-maker. You’ll never forget witnessing this brand of somersaults on stilts.
The contortionist duo is a firm audience favourite (I took a poll). These two rather petite but strong as hell women test the realms of human physicality and pass with flying colours. The audience audibly expressed their concern. “She’s not a ladder!” Contortion has never been so unnerving, nor so spectacular. The mind boggles at how a human body can make the shapes thrown by these phenomenal wonder women.
The wheel of death lives up to its name, with a genuine fear of imminent death instilled instantly as they spin that wheel to the point of terror, leaving strangers in the audience visibly grabbing at one another in fear. The near-drop moment was gloriously hair-raising, leaving the palms sweaty and knees weak. Magnificent doesn’t begin to describe this theatrical pinnacle.
As expected, the costumes are conceptually lavish and executed exquisitely. The set design is predictably immaculate, combined with a consummate lead singer and a faultless live band. The perfect production of Cirque du Soleil cannot be denied. It’s wondrous and a paragon that all theatre should find aspirational.
The most glorious moments are those where we get a peek behind the curtain and gain glimpses at the humanity behind the polished perfection. These are the times we are reminded that each super human is still one of us, and they are the most beautiful of them all. The little, high pitched cry of “yiss!” when an acrobat is ready to be shot into the sky during a quietly reverent juncture as we hold our breaths, the façade dropped when a performer nearly falls from the wheel of death and fans himself, obviously shaken, or the stolen smile of pride as the chair balancer bows and drops his intense concentration – these are the moments to cherish. This is when it’s suddenly very real for us, and the most moving of winks to the audience.
Anyone who knows carnie and circus folk are aware that they are a very supportive family. It’s a very tightknit circle full of love and a real sense of community. This is one of the most charming elements of Cirque du Soleil, visible in the active participation by various members of the cast in scene changes, set up of equipment and as support during acts. It makes for very experiential theatre, spotting favourites from acts as they act as helpers, waiting onstage to assist, adding to the anticipation of danger, as they are readily available in case of injury.
The world cannot get enough of Cirque du Soleil, and for very good reason. It’s simultaneously heart-warming, deliciously opulent, perfect and endearing. It’s superlative soup, and for very good reason. There are not enough words in the English language to do this show justice, and that’s a credit to every single person involved, from front of house to lead. Don’t stop believing. Believe in the child within you, and revel in them at Kooza.