Vancouverites know that fall is in the air when the leaves scatter across our many parks, the summer sunshine shares space with light mists, and the spectacular tent structures of Cirque Du Soleil begin to rise along False Creek.
Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil’s 35th production, has landed at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver for a show run that will last until December 30th, 2017. This mind-bending show of oddities felt like one part circus, one part romantic comedy and one part brain freeze. I have always admired Cirque shows for taking me to imaginary places I never expected to visit. Kurios really takes us there.
We travel through the mind of the Seeker, a droll, loveable character who reminds me of a mad scientist who is shy and mischievous. Through his eyes, we watch some of the impossible become possible through acrobatics, optical illusions and comedy. His parade of wild and exuberant characters tickle every funny bone, and tug at our heart strings with the help of a emotional orchestral backdrop.
Kurios is stunning in so many ways, but here are the 5 outstanding reasons I found to experience Kurios for yourself.
1. SPECTACULAR VIEWING LAYOUT
Cirque du Soleil travels with a monster of a village that can be seen from miles away. Eye-catching, spiralling blue and yellow tents are surrounded by as many as 65 semi trucks, which creates their roving headquarters of offices, artistic and rehearsal tents, including the Big Top. The Big Top is the largest of all their structures, and has 23 flags greeting us at the entrance, which represent the nationalities of the performers in Kurios.
Inside the Big Top, where the show itself is presented, we enter to find stadium-like seating, which is surprisingly easy to navigate. Comfortable chairs, nice wide walkways and rows, and a temperature control that kept us comfortable all night. The engineers were very thoughtful with their audience sightlines, as there are not many seats for the show where your view is anything less that spectacular.
We saw the show twice, once from a front centre seat, and once from a more angled seat further back. Each vantage point offered unique perspectives on the mammoth staging and props that constantly dazzle the eyes. If you are choosing Premium seats, be prepared for the most immersive, captivating live performance you may see in your lifetime. The stage is built just below your eyeline, so there is no strained neck or difficulty seeing the back performance areas. It felt as though we were watching a bespoke performance created for our eyes only! Watching the show from further back in the Big Top, the stage’s horizon is wider and broader, allowing you to soak in more of the entire experience. This is golden, and we really appreciate Cirque giving everyone the chance to feel proud of the seats they have chosen, no matter what our budgets may be.
2. AUDIENCE INTERACTION
One of the most memorable experiences of a Cirque evening is the continuous interaction with the audience. Performers are always popping up in the aisles and seating rows of the Big Top. The show immerses us in their camp and frivolity by allowing us into their eccentric world. It is this thoughtful magic that helps keep us on the edge of our seats, wondering who or what might appear out of the shadows.
Throughout the performance, we were treated to many exhilarating audience moments, like a clown projecting hand puppet performances on an audience member’s bald head. We found our eyes eagerly chasing an invisible beast around the tents. We saw clowns playing in buckets of popcorn, peeking out from behind pillars and inducing wild squeals of glee from children and adults alike. This is when we know good interactive comedy is written well, when the adults and children are all screaming with joy and surprise. Icing on the cake … it doesn’t matter what price level your tickets are, you will definitely be part of the action!
3. COSTUMES & PROPS
Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios is a costuming extravaganza that is sure to please any fashionista! Luxurious fabrics create flowing dresses that cascade as the performers dance and sway.
Some of my favourite looks were during the Acro-Net and Contortion scenes, where men and women of all shapes and sizes soared to dizzying heights wearing a colourful fish illusion. What drew me most to these costumes was the use of translucent pleated fabrics that represented fins and gills. The placement of these fins creates exaggerated curvatures along their bodies, regardless of gender roles we normally stereotype.
Quite impressive are some of the fabric treating techniques that were used to create other unique illusions. For example, some of the leather looks were created by adding foil and sublimated photos to a stretch fabric, giving our eyes a texture that seems heavy, but is actually flexible enough for performers to bend and fly with complete range of motion and comfort.
A fantastic costume creation to note is that of a character called Mr. Microcosmos, who you will see throughout the show. He carries a large belly that looks like a strong iron submarine end. Inside the tummy submarine of his overcoat is the Victorian designed home of a small character, Mini Lili, who is played by Rima Hadchiti, one of the world’s 10 smallest people. At 3.3 feet tall and 41 lbs., Mini Lili provides some of the most heart-warming audience experiences in the show, as we watch her character confidently command the stage surrounded by eclectic giants. Innovative and unique!
Also worth a aesthetic mention is the hoop skirt of Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible. From top to bottom, Klara is a visual treat through almost the entire show. The hoop skirt is a series of round discs that seem to be held together by small springs, which make the entire skirt bounce and swing as she gracefully glides from scene to scene. Even more exciting, is how she can lift and twist the skirt pieces to receive telecommunicative alpha waves. Watch for her in the background, atop the staging structures and in the shadows throughout the show. Clever and comedic placements had us giggling with each surprise appearance.
4. HEART STOPPING PERFORMANCES
The absolute highlights of Kurios are the jaw-dropping, gasp worthy stunts and routines in every scene. Cirque never holds back when they promise to deliver an elevated heart-rate. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, so I won’t specifically describe the moments, but I will mention some of the acts that took my breath away.
There is a beautifully crafted dinner table scene that is unlike anything I have ever seen on television, movies or live shows. If you are a fan of television hits like America’s Got Talent, then you are familiar with chair balancing routines, which can leave us with a lump in our throats. We pray for the performer to maintain their balance while adding chair after chair to a tall structure, balancing precariously over the crowd. Kurios takes this popular concept to a far more captivating and frightening level, playing with an anti-gravity optical illusion that leaves the audience dizzied and short of breath. A triumph of engineering I will never forget.
Kurios takes us to new heights and speeds, embracing concepts we are already familiar with, and adding a dangerous twist. One example is in the first scene, where a cast of curiosities watch as one of their team juggles glittery bowling pins and walking canes. What we don’t expect is for him to be whisked by stunt cable over 50 feet in the air while not missing a juggling beat.
A second breathless heights moment comes with a routine called Rola Bola, where an artist balances himself on a variety of cylinders and platforms, which grow higher with each suspenseful moment. Again, the last thing we expect from him is to continue balancing, while he teeters on a large pendulum swing high over our heads. Our shrieks varied from joy to terror in one breath, as we visualized these props and human body toppling across the Big Top. Fortunately everyone survived, and we shared our sweaty, anxious relief when he was safely on the ground again.
Believe me, these heart-stopping moments come with every scene in the show. No matter what your fear threshold may be, I can guarantee you that Cirque Du Soleil is ten steps ahead, just waiting to shock your senses. Your stomach will be in your throat during the acrobatic net routine, just wait and see.
5. MERCHANDISE TO BRING THE MAGIC HOME
Shows like Kurios evoke fantasy and stimulate our imaginations. We dream. We fly with them. We want to bring that fantasy into our own worlds. Kurios lovingly allows us to bring that fantasy home with us, perhaps to become future stars ourselves. Some of my favourite items were within a reasonable budget, which was refreshing to see as so many merchandise tables at concerts and shows become so grossly overpriced that I leave shows empty handed.
Take for example a concept as simple as pin juggling. Kurios took the concept to fantastical heights, and showed us the diversity and possibility of a simple pin, when juggled creatively. As I perused the merchandise area during intermission, I was very pleased to see a set of three pins, exactly as they were in the show, for around $25! How many kids, after seeing such an awe-inspiring performance, wouldn’t love to take some home and try themselves? Improve their coordination, get them off their smartphones into the fresh air, and fuel their creativity with hands-on activities.
You can easily find gifts for yourselves and your loved ones within reasonable price points, including yoyo’s (another great interactive activity to stimulate young ones), sets of hats and goggles exactly as seen in the show, pins and copper mugs.
One area I was a bit miffed by was the markup on food and drink. While I understand how expensive it can be to host a show of this calibre, pay the performers and extensive marketing, it felt like quite a shock for some of the single / double cocktail prices, and especially the refillable popcorn. If you are enjoying the show on a tight budget, make sure your kiddies are well fed close to showtime, allowing you to choose one or two sweet treats during the show that can keep you within budget. If you are anticipating getting a little buzzy yourselves, perhaps a cocktail or two at home beforehand may save you a surprise $20 tab for a drink at the show. Aside from these, candy and sodas were all quite fair on the pocketbook. I support Cirque Du Soleil in it’s mission to bring their shows to our front yard, so I really won’t complain too much, as I can see where their overhead costs are an astronomical risk.
Above everything I have mentioned in this list, what most captured my heart was the enthusiasm and precision of the performers. It is an absolute thrill to watch athletes in peak physical form, having the time of their lives sharing their skills and creativity with a live audience. This is passion at it’s finest. The energy of a performer who is risking their safety to bring squeals to our voices is a match made in thrill heaven.
Treat yourself to night under the Big Top with your special someone, your group of friends or colleagues. The emotional experience of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities will last a lifetime!
Kurios runs in Vancouver until December 30th, 2017 under the Big Top at Concord Pacific Place, two blocks from Stadium / Chinatown Skytrain Station.