By Leah Victoria
Date / Venue: Friday February 5th, 2016 - Vector Arena, Auckland
Cirque du Soleil's production 'Quidam' premiered in 1996 and has since captured the imaginations of millions worldwide. It's a story of a young girl called Zoe, isolated and ignored by her parents. She's inspired by Quidam, an anonymous passerby, who opens up her imagination and takes us through a journey of her dreams.
A big round stage seated centrally on the floor of Vector Arena with an array of systematic rigging arranged in an arch spanning out above the seating, greeted me as I entered the arena to take my front row seat. As the arena filled with excited masked children and their families, a creepy character in a hooded white boiler suit, with nothing except his eyes visible, stood statue like at the foot of the stage, silently scanning the faces in the crowd.
Aware that there was going to be some audience participation required tonight, I felt somewhat smug about my front row view but slightly on edge with the high possibility that I may be picked on! My heart stopped momentarily as Ring Master Mark Ward clapped eyes on me and approached. Luckily I got off lightly with nothing but a welcoming handshake!
The opening night began in the blended style of a comic thriller, as the hooded character is joined by three others, and they are sent off into the crowd by the Ring Master to kidnap an unsuspecting guy! Winched up from his seat and carried off backstage by his arms and legs. The minion type characters return without him and off they go again into the crowd. They pick on another man, and carry him off to replace the first guy they stole, placing him down next to a now lonely lady! Once satisfied that the audience has been rearranged accordingly, the story begins!
Young girl Zoe played by Italian actress/singer Alessandra González tries to rouse the interests of her seated, distant parents portrayed by Carol Valim and Steven Ragatz. Father has his head buried in his newspaper, while her mother stares of into the distance in a dream like state. Cue Quidam. A larger than life headless being, dressed in an oversized coat and carrying an umbrella and a bowler hat captures Zoe's attention. And so the fantasy commences.
First of the cirque perfomances is Cory Sylvester warming us up with a very clever execution on the German Wheel. He was able to glide around on that thing as if it were a natural extension to his lycra clad body! The stage was busy, and performances non stop. So many beautiful costumes, faces and characters at times I felt it difficult to know where to place my attention.
In particular I loved Julie Cameron's dramatic enactment of "Aerial Contortion" on a long seemless blood red river of silk. She so elegantly wrapped herself and hung in positions I never knew possible and gave me the fright of my life with some intentional "falls" and wrapping the silk around her neck and hanging almost lifelessly! The most incredible thing of all the aerial perfomances, including the Spanish Web and the Hoops was that they completely lacked any safety nets or harnesses!
The statue perfomance was a jaw dropper! Yves Decoste and Natalia Pestova bodies never lost contact as they engaged in gravity defying statuesque poses that require so much strength that at one point I could see Natalia's abdominal wall shaking!
Large group performances by the Banquine crew included fast and furious skipping on multiple jumpropes that would have had me tangled and confused, and heart stopping renditions that included launching pint sized acrobats into the air and landing with perfect grace on top of a three person tower!
The entire show is backed by an incredible live band borrowing sounds from a medley of genres, each expertly chosen to marry perfectly with every act.
The performance came to a close with a very comical bit of audience participation. Four audience members were engaged in the "filming" of a silent movie telling a romantic story with a tragic ending. There was a bit of confusion over what each character was supposed to be doing when the vintage style wooden video camera was pointed on them, which only led to more hysterical laughs and 6 takes until the movie was complete!
There was dancing, singing, skipping, juggling and flying. Drama, thriller and comedy all rolled into one perfectly choreographed 2 hour carnival. By the end, my face hurt from smiling, and my palms sore from clapping.
This is sadly the last ever time Quidam will be performed by the Cirque du Soleil team and is running at Vector Arena until 14th February and then heads to the Horncastle Arena in Christchurch February 17-26th. Don't miss out on this absolutely spectacular event!