Saturday, 21 January 2017

Kooza - Circus Review

What: Kooza
When: 20 January - 26 March 2017
Where: Flemington Racecourse
Written and directed by: David Shiner
Composed by: Jean-Francois Cote
Choreography by: Clarence Ford
Performed by: Irina Akimova, Ninjin Altankhuyag, Miguel Berlanga, Marie-Eve Bisson, Yao Deng Bo, Andrei Butar, Paul Butlerm Talita De Lima,  Fernando Diaz, Roberto Quiros Dominguez, Vincente Quiros Dominguez, Alexander Eliseev, Peter Fand, Aaron Felske, Michael Garner, Alessandra Gonzalez, Egor Grachev, Jimmy Ibarra, Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Kevin Johnson, Alexander Kashlev, Laura Kmetko, Fritz Kraai, Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Alexey Lozgachev, Bayarmunkh Munkhbayasgalan, Carl Murr, Vladimir Panfilov, Elizaveta Parmenova, Denis Pirogov, Ghislain Ramage, Lisa Marie Ramey, Brayhan Sanchez, Flouber Sanchez, Sergey Semavin, Yury Shavro, Ronald Solis, Marina Tikhonenko, Olga Tutynina, Mike Tyus, Andrey Vostrikov, and Vladislav Zolotarev
Set by: Stephane Roy
Costumes by: Marie-Chantal Vaillancourt
Lighting by: Martin Labrecque

Charivari and Trickster - Photo by: Matt Beard Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil 
Kooza is  a classic Cirque du Soleil show which has been around since 2007 and now it is in Australia. Under the Grand Chapiteau at Flemington Racecourse acrobats and clowns fly, leap, jump, skip and dance through the night as they celebrate the idea of circus in a box.

There is only the loosest of narratives in this show which focuses on the idea of the Innocent who lets the Trickster out of the box after which all sorts of circus hijinks take place. The focus of this show is on fun and spectacle, with  a strong theme of duality. You will notice as the show progresses that many acts and parts of acts are performed in pairs - the contortionists, the unicycle, the High Wire, and even the counter-jumpers in the teeterboard work in pairs.

The Trickster is a strong character who brings order and keeps things moving along however it is the clowns who dominate most of the time on stage between acts. This is probably because the writer and director (Shiner) is a clown. These clowns, though, are not funny. Taking archetypes based heavily in Commedia there is a darknesss to them which is unsettling and unfunny.

In particular I was not impressed with the audience participation sections which, in the first one involved female objectification and physical mauling, and in the second was an attempt to embarrass. I was really glad the man selected had some physical acuity which caused the 'clowning' to fall flat. This style of clowning does not resonate in Australia and, whilst it has a long tradition in the world of performance, is an element of the past which should be left behind.

The acrobats on the other hand were phenomenal from start to finish. After a drawn out beginning which included very banal dance choreography by Ford, the show finally kicked into gear with what, for me, was one of the phenomenal highlights of the show - the contortionists (Jargalsaikhan and Altankhuyag). The strength, flexibility and control demonstrated by these women was jaw dropping.

This pair was followed immediately by Bisson who performed one of the most blistering aerial hoop acts I have ever seen. It almost felt she was spinning and twisting and rising and falling at the speed of light.

Part of the amazing experience of circus is watching apparatus being erected and Kooza does not try to hide any of the mechanics of the show. Even the major set element, the Bataclan, reveals the backstage although it replicates the role of proscenium arch and works as the bandstand as well.

The Bataclan (designed by Roy) is a magnificent piece of architecture encompassing the Middle Asian aesthetic echoed in Vaillancourt's Charivari costumes. All of the costumes were stunning, but I felt there were too many influences going on which were unconnected. This is something I felt about the whole show generally.

I had a wonderful night, though, with lots of gasps of awe. The sword fight on the high wire was fun and breathtaking and I always love the Wheel of Death. I also have to say this wheel is one of the most beautiful pieces of apparatus I have ever seen!

The show climaxes with the teeterboard and what a climax it was. These acrobats not only somersault over 9 meters in the air, but they do it on tall metal stilts! The images still resonate in my mind.

I do think I expect a lot from Cirque du Soleil and it is because they always bring a lot to their shows. Kooza is probably not the best show in their repertoire but it is still a mighty fine extravaganza and a great show for the kids because it is light and fun and there is a very naughty dog running around causing havoc as well.

For tickets click HERE. Kooza will be opening in Perth on April 12.

4 Stars

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