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12.01.2013- Theatre Review: Cirque du Soleil's Kooza

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The tradition of clowning is one which has long been synonymous with the circus, and is undoubtedly one of the most instantly recognisable performance styles in the world.

It's perhaps fitting then, that clowns in all guises are the subject of Cirque du Soleil's spectacular Kooza, currently enjoying a UK premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Telling the story of The Innocent, a solitary clown trying to find where he belongs in the world, Kooza fuses together a variety of acrobatic, gymnastic and comedic performances to create a simply breathtaking production which really does have to be seen to be believed. 

Kooza sees the spectacular surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall transformed to incorporate a wonderfully versatile stage, and as each act appears you become acutely aware of how intricately each element of the production has been designed in order to fill the space so effectively. Staged in the round, this is a performance which really succeeds at drawing the audience in, most notably through the participation which is encouraged throughout by a trio of haphazard clowns. These characters guide us through the performance, punctuating act after act with physical comedy or jokes, and consistently serving to draw the audience back to the core themes of the piece. Clowning has been an integral part of Cirque du Soleil since the troupe formed in Quebec in the early 1980s, and Kooza brings the tradition right up to date by showcasing character led comedy alongside a series of spectacular acrobatic performances.

The show flows seamlessly from act to act, and the sheer variety of circus performers on display here is something to be commended. From a trio of eye-watering contortionists to the gravity defying tightrope skills of The Quiros Troupe, each performance is faultless and steadily builds a sense of jeopardy- particularly those acts which unfold with little or no visible safety support. As Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis emerge for their Wheel of Death act after the interval, the atmosphere shifts to become far darker, with the stage world transforming into a landscape where the stakes are considerably raised. The Wheel of Death is perhaps the most breathtaking of the acts featured in Kooza, and one which is completely heart-stopping for the audience; words simply cannot do justice to how spectacular the sheer acrobatic power of Ibarra and Solis is in a live environment.

The design elements, most notably lighting and sound underscore the action perfectly, and it is a credit to the backstage team that such a technically demanding show flows so seamlessly. Beautiful costumes, designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, evoke the heritage of the circus whilst adding a contemporary edge to the production, and Florence Cornet's makeup lends a strong sense of character and an immediate visual presence to each act, particularly the clowns. A live band and singers accompany the performers throughout, and the original score created by Jean-François Côté creates palpable sense of energy, steadily building the atmosphere as the acrobatic endeavours of the company become increasingly death defying.

Put simply, writer/director David Shiner has pulled off a masterstroke with Kooza. Marrying considered characterisation and narrative elements with the visceral beauty and variety of circus performance, this is a production which keeps the audience on the edge of their seat throughout. Whether you're a lifelong fan of Cirque du Soleil or are a relative newcomer to their work, Kooza encompasses everything you could possibly want from a live show and more. It's warm, funny, spellbinding entertainment at its best.

Kooza continues at the Royal Albert Hall until February 14th 2013. 

(Image credit: Cirque du Soleil.)

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see that! I heard some amazing reviews about it and yours is just another one. :) X

    mademoiselle-lala.com

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