If there’s a show to banish any lingering festive lethargy, Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Kooza’ is probably it. The mega-troupe’s unfathomably energetic acrobats have blindingly perfect smiles,and the bright, boisterous show is a rollercoaster of colour and sparkle.
In other words, the returning ‘Kooza’ holds everything you might expect from the internationally renowned Quebec-based company. Its flimsy framing device – where a character called The Innocent is transported to a gaudy world by a man with a wand and an extraordinary hairstyle – vaguely cues up what is essentially set-piece after set-piece.
Cirque du Soleil have built their name on glitzy production values and astounding acrobatic feats. ‘Kooza’ has plenty of the former, but the first half is lacking in the latter. The trapeze artist, balancers, unicycle duo, contortionists and three kooky clowns are all pretty good, there’s just not much to gasp at. Old-school circus awe finally comes with the high wire walkers, who balance on each other as they ride bikes at an impossible height.
The second half warms up. It begins with a great dance of skeletons, then we’re treated to the wheel of death, a lady manipulating a vast number of twirling hoops all over her body, and the ‘teeterboard’ – basically a seesaw that flings people into the air. This final act is jaw dropping, especially when acrobats on very high stilts are flipped easily into the air.
In the gaps, there’s more clowning from trio Gordon White, Colin Heath and Amo Gulinello, who orchestrate some nice audience participation in an act that harks back to traditional circus fun. Several of the appearances from The Innocent and his friend feel as though they’ve been put there to hide the rather long set changes. Stephane Roy’s impressive designs have a huge tower at the back of the stage where a great live band booms a mix of rock and Indian-influenced music.
There are other circus companies around today that are making more exciting work. But where Cirque trumps all is in the big bang costumes, sets, music, lights and make up, all of which provide undeniable wow-factor.