“We’re going to the circus!” I announce to my five-year-old daughter, wanting to surprise her with a special treat. “Not with animals?” she looks at me somewhat confused. “No, with people!” I explain. “Ahhh, acrobats!” she crows, delighted at her good fortune of being taken on a special date, just the two of us.
“Will there be tightrope walkers? And jugglers?” she asks, her only point of reference for a circus a traditional one from well before the time she was born. “Ummmm,” I reply, not sure how to answer. When you’re going to watch Cirque Du Soleil, all expectations on what you’re actually going to see on stage go out the window. It could be literally any physical feat, and usually more bizarre than your imagination can dream up. “I guess we’ll see,” I finally say, and off we go to the big top in Sydney’s Moore Park, and excitedly take our seats.
Cirque Du Soleil has been wowing audiences with electrifying shows since their humble beginnings as a group of 20 street performers in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec City, in Canada. The band of colourful characters entertained people on the streets with stilt-walking, juggling, dancing, breathing fire, and playing live music. Old-school circus acts, performed with what would become their trademark drama and flair.
The company is still based in Quebec, and now has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from around 50 countries around the world. They’re performed in over 300 cities in over 40 countries on six continents – and tonight, they’re in Sydney, Australia.
Much to my delight, Kooza pays homage to Cirque Du Soleil’s traditional circus roots with a combination of acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The acts my daughter mentioned? They’re all there and she is thrilled. Stilt-walkers, jugglers, dancers, contortionists and tight-rope walkers. Every single circus act we could have possible hoped for was entwined in Kooza’s thrilling story of an Innocent’s discovery of light and dark magic.
Kooza cleverly weaves a tale about discovery, fear and power through a jam-packed show filled with acrobatic acts and tension-breaking light humour. The central character, The Innocent, is our guide on a journey of thrills, suspense and moments where our hearts almost stop watching the death-defying feats in front of our eyes.
While the adult in me sees the occasional safety gear go up for some of the more terrifying acts, my daughter is focussed only on the action and is genuinely worried about the well-being of the acrobats. “That doesn’t look very safe,” she whispers in my ear as a man dressed as the devil jumps on top of a spinning “wheel of death” that soars right to the top of the tent roof and proceeds to flip into the air.
She’s right – it’s part of the show’s illusion to make every act look effortless, while tapping into our sub conscious desire to see how far a human body can be pushed before it breaks. Will they fall? In a few spots, they almost do, and a collective gasp goes up in the audience to see a wobble or slight slip. They are fragile human beings and this is real life, not a movie with trick photography at work. If they fall it’s a long way down.
I point out the safety net that springs up when the tightrope walkers get particularly daring, and the hook that is attached to the man who balances with one hand on top 10 chairs to show her there is nothing to fear. “Even if they fall, they’ll be ok,” I whisper back, and she lets out the biggest sigh of relief I’ve heard from her, and spends the rest of the show pointing out the safety equipment to me, so I won’t be scared either.
The show draws to its close and I realise I’ve been holding my breath for much of it, perched on the edge of my seat. For two hours, we’ve been thoroughly immersed in a fantastical dreamscape world where acrobats are able to do the impossible – perform tricks that my mind can’t comprehend as possible for a human body to be able to do.
My daughter, after her first circus experience ever, is forever changed. Her world has expanded and her imagination unlocked. She’s seen with her own eyes the heights and athletic ability that a human body can reach, and the daring that some souls possess to push themselves past limits the rest of us would quite frankly baulk at. She is among many children in the tent, the next generation who are growing up with Cirque Du Soleil being the the only circus they’re likely to experience.
The audience leaves the tent uplifted and with stars in their eyes. We’ve seen great things today and will tell our friends about that time we saw a man leap aboard a spinning wheel of death and survive what looks impossible, or about the lady who spun from a hoop high in the air, saved from plummeting to the ground only by her neck. It’s the kind of stuff you never forget that you’ve seen.
My five-year-old wants to run away and join the circus. Come to think of it, so do I. We’d better start working on our acts.
Tips for seeing Kooza by Cirque Du Soleil
- Parking at the Entertainment Quarter is actually quite reasonable. 3-4 hours is only $10.
- If you’re taking kids, ask for a booster seat when you enter the seating pavilion.
- Bathrooms are outside the pavilion so go beforehand.
- Find your seats at least 10 minutes before the show starts so you don’t miss the pre-show entertainment.
- The best place to see the show is smack bang right in the middle of the front section as this is where much of the action faces. Don’t fret if you’ve already bought tickets on the side though as the whole show is still visible from the entire ring.
- The show is quite long for littles to sit through – an hour and a bit for the first half, followed by a 30 minute interval and then 45 minutes for the 2nd half.
- If you are considering taking little ones, be aware that there are loud noises at times and a few scary themes like skeletons.
- Water is provided for free near the bar areas so you can take your own water bottle as long as it’s not glass, and refill it.
- Snacks and drinks are permitted into the pavilion.
Catch KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil in a city near you:
Sydney – Now playing until November 13 2016, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Brisbane – From November 24 2016, Skygate Brisbane Airport (near DFO)
Melbourne – From January 20 2017, Flemington Racecourse
Perth – From April 13 2017, Belmont Park Racecourse, Victoria Park Drive (off Farmer Freeway), Burswood
Tickets at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza
Thank you Cirque Du Soleil for tickets to see the show. All opinions are my own.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!