Review: KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities (Cirque du Soleil)

Photo: D-CORD Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2018 Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s acclaimed production KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities was an evening of excitement, enchantment, and unexpected marvels under the Big Top. It was all of the gasp-inducing, awe-inspiring circus I had been told to expect from this world-class company, delivering a joyous sense of wonder and allowing for absolute suspension of disbelief as the phenomenon unfolded around us.

Photo: Martin Girard / Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible. In an alternate yet familiar past, a Seeker discovers that in order to glimpse the marvels that lie just below the surface, we must first learn to close our eyes. In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, the Seeker is convinced that there exists a hidden world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams await.  A collection of otherworldly characters suddenly steps into his makeshift mechanical world.  When the outlandish, benevolent characters turn his world upside down with a touch of poetry and humour, his curios jump to life one by one before his very eyes, to the delight of the audience.

Photo: Martin Girard / Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

I had never seen Cirque du Soleil perform before, and so my overwhelm and awe began with the sheer scope and detail of the performance space. Entering the enormous Big Top erected at Hamilton was a thrill in itself, even bigger on the inside than it had seemed on approach. They certainly set you up to believe that anything is possible, and that carries through to the performance itself. The atmosphere inside the tent was electric, with a buzz of anticipation running through the audience that surrounded three sides of the lavishly adorned stage, inspired by the steampunk aesthetic of the alternate past that the show transported us to.

Photo: Martin Girard / Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

This Australian touring production of KURIOS features a cast of 47 artists from 17 countries; the stage is full and busy throughout the performance, with something amazing happening everywhere you look. It is difficult but delightful to try and take it all in.

Photo: D-CORD Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2018 Cirque du Soleil

The cast of KURIOS includes world-class gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, hand-puppeteers, yo-yo wizards, clowns, actors, and musicians, and their expertise is evident in their showmanship and character as well as the absolute polish of the show. A series of aerial acts had the audience gasping and holding their breath in amazement, as did incredible acts of balancing and juggling; the contortionists were not only unbelievably flexible but also incredibly strong; a trampolining act was one of my personal highlights; clever clowning and comedy were delivered with spot-on timing and a hefty dose of charm; and there were many moments of laughter, amazement, and spectacle in between. Without giving anything away, some acts took a sudden turn that genuinely surprised me (in the best possible way), providing a twist in the story just when you thought that the limits had been reached.

Photo: D-CORD Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2018 Cirque du Soleil

The music of KURIOS was constant and distinctive but never distracted from the acts on stage – the musicians and singers were always visible, whether in the main arena or tucked into the enormous and intricate set. Costume changes were lightning-fast, and the many (many!) costumes were astounding in their colour and variety. Props and set pieces large and small were moved seamlessly on and off the stage, and harnesses were fastened and unfastened in the same manner – much like the Seeker’s mechanical companions, KURIOS is a well-oiled machine bursting with life.

KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities is playing under the Big Top at Northshore Hamilton, Brisbane, until February 23, 2020. Tickets start at $80. For ticketing and further information, visit the Cirque du Soleil website.

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