With the word ‘circus’, various images come to mind: a colliding of primary colours matched by the tacky performances of clowns with predictable goofy shoes and make-up. Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza, however, is far removed from the claustrophobic hustle and bustle of the circus tent. Kooza reinvents the circus tradition: it combines the sophistication and artistry of the performative arts with basic circus customs, creating a true feast for the eyes.
Performed at the Royal Albert Hall, it is an ideal venue for the visual delights that this show provides, as the theatre in the round enables the entire audience to not only view, but experience the performance. In fact, ‘experience’ is a key aspect of Kooza. The show begins before the beginning, as it starts from within the audience. A clown chased by police, the master of the show in a yellow and black pinstripe suit, a dog, and an overly keen mother bringing her son his packed lunch seep in from the audience, whilst the spectators sitting in their red velvet chairs begin to wonder whether they have come to the right show – or indeed the right place.
Beyond visual experience, Kooza is centred around the discovery of finding one’s ‘right place’, or indeed identity. The performance begins with a boy’s failed attempt at trying to fly a kite, and following a mysterious gift of a Jack-in-a-box, becomes immersed in the circus world. The boy and the audience observe the vast array of palm-sweating acts that this bizarre realm has to offer: an intertwining of contortionists who spin limbs around heads and backs, and a trapeze artist that leaps to the ecstasy of rock music. The highlight of the show was the ‘Wheel of Death’ which left the viewers gasping and grasping at their chairs and hands of their awe-struck neighbours, as two men dressed as devils walked on wheels that spiraled mid-air.
However, what was perhaps most notable about Kooza was that there was not only the “Cirque du Soleil” style acts of extreme talent and difficulty, as these were intermittently broken by acts of basic slapstick comedy. Despite the simplicity of such styles of performance, the spectators were fooled into believing that they were only witnessing conventional and dull circus tricks, which was not the case: for even the simple magician was revealed to be a thief (robbing the volunteer from the audience of his tie, watch and wallet.)
Throughout the show, it was difficult to catch one’s breath. As well as the adrenalin induced by balancing acts that appeared to make the impossible possible, the vibrancy of the colours of the costumes, the incorporation of live music and theatricality and the poignant theme of the production, culminated in one image and emotion: the peace of the flying kite. The concept of being able to achieve one’s own impossible feat, which the magical world of Kooza demonstrated, left a musing and very satisfied audience.
***** (5 Stars)
PHOTOS/ Cirque du Soleil