Cirque du Soleil's Kooza launches with back-to-basic acrobatics and accessible comedy courtesy of clowns. Then the drama is amped up steadily to provide plenty of edge-of-the-seat entertainment in one of the most joyful Cirque productions to have hit our shores yet.
The Canadian circus is no stranger to Singapore, having staged everything from Saltimbanco to Quidam here in the last two decades. But unlike the melancholic Alegria or the dark and dramatic Quidam, there was an exuberance about Kooza that was uplifting.
The new show unfurls like a story, as the Trickster, a jester-like figure in striped suits and flaunting a twinkle in his eye, guides the audience. Like a snake charmer armed with a sparkly baton instead of a flute, he draws the main character called the Innocent - and the crowd - into a magical world with high-wire acts, contortionists and clowns. One could feel him staring into one's soul as he beckons you with a dramatic wrist flick.
This narrative was certainly an improvement on the Darwin-inspired Totem, which rolled into town in 2015 - the latter was aesthetically pleasing, but was plagued by incoherence.
The rich red-and-gold palette of the stage and the Bollywood-flavoured soundtrack provided by the live band added to the drama of the current production.
There was plenty for the audience to ooh and aah about - an act called Contortion where three performers created stunning sculptures with their bodies; a male-female duo, with their bodies intertwined, performed a quick samba aboard a unicycle.
The highlights were the death-defying acts - the twin high wires and the imposing Wheel of Death.
In the former, four tightrope walkers fearlessly dance, skip and skitter across wires slung high above the ground, as various effects (chairs and bicycles) appeared from the ceiling. To make the feat even more impressive, the foursome made their way across the wires using the props, all while still managing to make it look effortless. A safety net notwithstanding, gasps rose from the crowd as the difficulty of each trick increased.
For the Wheel Of Death, two performers with devilish horns atop their heads climbed onto the 725kg structure with a suitably devil-may-care attitude and performed tricks both inside and outside the wheel, as the wheels spun faster and faster. Fittingly for their characters, there was plenty of showboating, even after one of them got his foot stuck while skipping rope on the outside of the wheel's steel cage and fumbled a bit.
Tempering the heart-stopping thrills were light-hearted moments, courtesy of a merry bunch of clowns with their slapstick humour and physical comedy, as they raced round the stage spilling popcorn on unsuspecting guests and masterfully involving audience members in skits.
The Innocent's little red clown nose was a lovely touch to harken back to the traditional clown. As he grows in confidence, the audience goes on the journey with him, proving the necessity of a great narrative to complement a brilliant circus show.
Kooza has done well to forgo special effects, a heavy-handed plot and overly dramatic set designs, in favour of focusing on the performer and the theatre and high art of a Cirque production.
BOOK IT / CIRQUE DU SOLEIL - KOOZA
WHERE: Bayfront Avenue beside Marina Bay Sands
WHEN: Till Aug 20, Tuesday to Sunday, various times
ADMISSION: $88 to $318 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Article first published on StraitsTimes