What: Cirque du Soleil's Quidam
When: Continues tonight through Saturday
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
Rating: Five stars (out of five)
A headless man with a trenchcoat and umbrella, whose hat is the starting point for a world of wonder. A schoolyard scene that transforms into a dizzying, 12-person game of jumprope. Five figures wrapped in ropes suspended from the ceiling, who tumble down, unravelling at staggered intervals. These are some of the inventive scenes woven together to make Cirque du Soleil's Quidam.
Cirque du Soleil made a name for itself redefining circus for the modern day. When Quidam was created on the verge of the millennium, the company re-imagined the modern day through the lens of circus.
There's a loose story, guided by a Steve Urkel-like clown named John, stitching these vignettes together. Zoe is a young girl whose parents sit unreactive, reading the paper and staring forward. So she scapes into a fantastical world, where faceless passers-by become colourful performers.
While this seem like a more subdued Cirque show than others it begins with a few contemporary clowns and the first standout feat is a soloist in a cyr wheel rather than a full, razzle-dazzle group entrance the stripped-down theme is a perfect fit for the company. One of Cirque's greatest contributions to the world of entertainment is the way it challenges the bounds of the human body. And that's often better achieved without too many props or distractions. There's great beauty in simplicity.
At the same time this is still a Cirque show. The art direction is breathtaking, from start to finish whether it's a stark scene with a pale woman who wraps and unwraps herself in billowing scarlet silks suspended from the ceiling, or the greying couple who move in slow motion as statues.
The scenes move from lonely and eery through hilarious. Even the audience-participation portions something that could easily go wrong with the wrong host had the audience in stitches.
The level of athleticism is astounding. A woman who contorts from pretzel to upside split, balanced on one hand. A man balances a woman on the nook where his upper back meets his neck. The finale, featuring 15 artists performing a series of spectacular, acrobatic feats is a highlight. At one point, three men stand on one another's shoulders and a small woman is tossed to the top. Just like that. It's the kind of trick that inspires terror and astonishment all at once.
All the while, a live band led by Michael Cyr carries the show from light-hearted silent-movie accompaniment through the electric guitar solos and apocalyptic-sounding choral voices that set the tone for especially tense stunts.
It's hard to imagine where this show could go wrong. It's so well-designed that there's little the performers could do, beyond messing up every trick they attempt, to sabotage this performance.
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