Cirque du Soleil: Kurios

The Seeker (centre) and Klara
Credit: Martin Girard Shoot Studio

Under the Grand Chapiteau (Concord Pacific Place) until December 30, 2017
Tickets from $50 at

Posted October 29, 2017

Cirque du Soleil dips back into the past with Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities – to present a show that imagines the future from the perspective of the past. Writer/director Michel Laprise, a creative team of two dozen, more than fifty performers, plus musicians, sound and lighting technicians and a huge working crew, create a late-19th century world on the cusp of huge scientific discoveries, a world of weird and wonderful inventions, a world of infinite possibilities. The look is steam-punk but the period is late Victorian when steam was still powering the world.

At the centre is The Seeker, a mad scientist surrounded by his collection of oddities and unusual characters including Mr. Microcosmos, in whose huge belly resides Mini Lili (a little person less than a meter tall) as well as her parlour with its tiny armchair; Klara, whose hula-hoop-like rings receive electro magnetic waves; and Nico, the Accordion Man whose costume allows him to shrink to almost nothing.

Mr. Microcosmos and Mini Lili
Credit: Martin Girard Shoot Studio

Consistent with all of the Cirque shows – and there are nineteen of them around the world this year alone – the narrative is not the thing. We don’t necessarily understand that, according to the program notes, Mini Lili is Mr. Microcosmos’ intuitive, poetic side; nor do we get that The Seeker is a humanist who believes in a perfectible world. We are simply dazzled by colour, sound and lights and, most of all by the death-defying, jaw-dropping feats of daring performed by bodies beautiful.

And we are charmed, too, by the delightfully low-tech in the midst of all that hi-tech. Lowest tech of all is a mini, mimed tribute to the old style circus with a very small circus ring, a velvet curtain and a ringmaster with a whip. We see two trapeze bars but no performers, a vault but no acrobat and we hear the roar of a lion but no lion. Cirque and this imaginary little circus-within-a-circus are poles apart but this act recalls circuses going back hundreds of years, well before Guy Laliberté founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984 in Quebec.

Acro Net
Credit: Martin Girard Shoot Studio

What puts Cirque du Soleil above all the rest are the body-hugging colourful spandex costumes, distinctive make-up, music and non-stop action; there’s always so much going on and Cirque gets every little detail right. Even while you’re watching bodies flying, vaulting and balancing, there’s something happening elsewhere on stage. You just don’t want to miss a thing. In this particular show, the steam-punk ambience lends itself to really strange half-machine, half-human figures stalking about in the background. Of all the Cirque shows I’ve seen, this one is the most visually interesting.

Watch for the Aviator who arrives in a small prop plane and performs a ridiculously difficult balancing act on cylinders and planks atop a moving platform. Be amazed at the yo-yo guy who does things with a pair of yo-yos that you can’t imagine possible until you see it. Wonder at the joint-denying contortions the four deep-sea creatures get their incredibly lithe and agile bodies into. Be amused by the chair balancer who discovers an upside-down, sky-high mirror image of himself and his guests at the dinner table.

Contortionists on The Mechanical Hand
Credit: Martin Girard Shoot Studio

The program tells us that Cabinet of Curiosities refers to a time when “aristocrats, members of the merchant class and early practitioners of science formed collections of historical relics, works of art or mysterious travel souvenirs or artifacts.” Take time to get a close-up look at the two glowing ‘cabinets’ on either side of the stage. Salvaged from junkyards and re-assembled, they represent two elements: sound and electricity.

It’s a grand show under the Grand Chapiteau. Release your inner child, open your mind and let your kuriosity run free.