He’s there, playing by himself again: the little boy with the kite. The kite catches the wind and he giggles with glee. Then, the wind dies and the kite crashes to the ground. He tries to save it before it hits, but the kite – too fast – bites the black dust and the little boy lands in a heap on top of it. I want to hug him, dry the big black tears dripping down his white face, soothe back the hair hidden under his hat, and help him fix his toy and send it soaring again.
But I can’t go, can’t reach out to the child, for I’m sitting in a box at the Royal Albert Hall watching the opening night of Cirque du Soliel’s Kooza in London. Nevertheless, I’m halfway out of my seat to rush down the stairs to the boy with his kite, when a mailman, dressed in a pristine uniform of shiny white, tricycles down the stage with a big package. The mailman’s busy and running late – he keeps checking his watch even as he becomes tangled in the receipts for all the mail he’s delivered. I laugh in delight – as does the child on stage – and wonder how the mailman manages to keep finding his watch even when he cannot find his way forward. But the package is finally delivered and a large white box sits mysteriously in the centre of the stage.
The boy looks at it, big black eyes full of wonder, kite clutched close in one hand, the other tugging at his hat – a black and white whimsy reminiscent of Santa’s elves – as his mouth quirks in apprehension. He suddenly darts forward, eyes full of mischievous anticipation – and the white wrapping falls away. Blood red, embossed in gold, the box sits in fearsome glory. Carefully backing his body as far away as he can, the boy reaches forward to tap the box gingerly with his finger.
And the world shatters in an explosion of colour.
The Stripped Man leaps out of the explosion to a chorus of flashing lights and smoke. The trombones howl at the moon like Wolfman Jack and the compelling figure thrills us all with the promise of magic, mystery, and the dark and light that bring color into our lives. For the next two hours, the Stripped Man leads us on a journey through love, laughter, death and magic – his manic figure almost sinister in its condensed contrast, that overexposed rawness. Unicycles fly and daemons dance on a giant whirling drumstick. Death visits in the guise of a beautiful Voodoo witch and her skeletons chase the zany and mercurial king of the clowns from the security of his throne. A wizard suspends himself above a tower of chairs – 8, 9, 10, 12 chairs tall. Acrobats leap through the air on stilts and play with jump ropes on tightropes suspended 20, 30 feet high. All the while, the Stripped Man conducts it all – the madness, the mystery, the command – and highlights the good and the bad that make everyday life miraculous.
The little boy soaks it all in, making mistakes – trying to take the Stripped Man’s magic wand for his own – restoring balance – returning the clown king’s crown – and becoming ever more colourful as the show goes on. When the Stripped Man bids him adieu, the little boy looks bigger, as if he’s grown and his black and white suit is replaced with a brilliant stripped one of his own.
And that is Kooza.
Kooza will continue to be at the Royal Albert Hall in London until 10th February.