Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities (Cirque du Soleil)

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Cirque du Soleil opens their new steampunk-inspired show Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities in Toronto

Arriving at Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities (staged at the Toronto Port Lands) is like walking into a block party. A local ska band is blasting Pharrell out of a sousaphone; stilt-walkers and guests in improbable hats pose for photographs; children rush about, full of energy and excitement; and the enormous blue and yellow tent — one of Cirque du Soleil’s trademark Grand Chapiteaux — looms above it all.

The action inside the tent is typical Cirque: acrobatics, clowning, balancing, aerialism and contortion, all of the highest quality. But this show still felt like something bigger and better than usual — even our Managing Editor Wayne Leung, who has seen nearly 30 Cirque shows, came away with a sense that this is an exceptional show.

Kurios is the (loose) story of a Victorian tinkerer (played by Antonio Moreno) whose imagination and inventions open a portal to a steampunk world. During his visit, he travels through the skies and to the bottom of the ocean, encounters strange and delightful people, and loses his baggage in a train station.

There are twelve acts in all, some of which have joined the show since the Montreal opening: I was especially wowed by Anne Weissbecker’s bicycle-inspired aerialism, James Eulises Gonzalez Correa’s rola-bola aviator, and Andrii Bondarenko’s dinner-party balance act. All of these solo pieces put new spins on established arts, and all of them benefit from Kurios‘ consistent, thoughtful design.

Philippe Guillotel’s costumes and Stéphane Roy’s sets are visually-striking and functional, and provide the show with a ton of “how’d they do that?” moments. Characters live inside each other; hot air balloons suddenly appear from the void; and bell jars and spotlights (and performers!) whirr about on tiny railway cars.

The music (a co-credit to Raphaël Beau and composing team Bob & Bill), inspired by klezmer and Portuguese Fado, is eerily perfect for this imaginary period — and it’s performed live by an (uncredited) band, so keep an eye out: they sometimes pop up in unexpected places.

And this design pays off most in the group numbers: Kurios sets its trampoline act underwater, its banquine at the seaside, and its mile-a-minute opening number — combining Gabriel Beaudoin’s juggling, Christa Mercey’s percussion, and a whole company of dancers — in a railway station. This adds up to a refreshing and important change from Cirque’s usual preference for voids and spaces between spaces.

Bluntly, these vignettes don’t feel like vignettes: design and musical choices thread this show together to create something more coherent and rewarding than we’ve seen from Cirque in years.

This is a perfect show for children, but if you can afford the ticket price (nosebleed seats start at $60), I actually think this would be an ideal date show: if you want to enjoy this as a piece of entertainment, you can — but if you want to go digging, you’ll find surprising moments of beauty and insight, and that means plenty to think and talk about.

Details

  • Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities plays at the Toronto Portlands (51 Commissioners St.) through October 26th, 2014.
  • Adult tickets start at $60, and go as high as $275. Various discounts available. See website or call the box office for details. (1-800-450-1480)
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (1-800-450-1480), or in-person from the on-site box office 90 minutes before any performance.
  • Be advised that this site is difficult to access by public transit: plan your route carefully, and allow additional time for mishaps or missed connections.

Photo of the Company by Martin Girard

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