That blockbuster didn’t quite play to Cirque du Soleil’s strengths, so it’s marvellous to see Kurios coalesce into an immersive world, a true cabinet of curiosities that hurls every sort of uncanny physical feat into a wonderland of bizarre invention.
Superlative production values bring to life an antique and surreal universe where mad scientists jostle against strange robots, accordion men and daring aviators, where acrobats embark on astonishing adventures in the air and undersea and audiences are treated an expansive suite of marvels and oddities – at least some of which even veteran circusgoers will never have seen before.
The show’s aesthetic is pleasurably reminiscent of the visionary film City of Lost Children, from French directors Jeunet and Caro, with a splash of Jules Verne thrown in, and crafts imaginative spectacle inspired by the age of clockwork and gramophone.
From the elaborately choreographed ensemble acrobatics of the opening, a cast of eccentric characters emerges. Their leader is a rotund figure with a torso that looks like a metal diving helmet, who happens to have an elegant little lady living inside him.
Other oddballs abound. There’s a yoyo virtuoso improvising a dizzy routine to live jazz, a postmistress on an aerial bicycle, a finger puppet extravaganza projected onto a hot-air balloon, and the kooky ringmaster of an invisible circus, who also indulges in some of the wildest and most assured physical clowning imaginable.
Cirque du Soleil has its pick of the world’s elite acrobats, and they never fail to astonish. Some of the more eye-catching highlights include a conjoined duo on aerial straps, mermen performing sky-high feats of trampolining from an acro-net, and a ballerina using a strongman as a human trapeze.
It’s all executed flawlessly; the preternatural strength, agility, timing and balance on display are exhilarating to behold. And just as exciting are the superb costumes, the live music, choreography, and lighting, the way every aspect of performance craft is seamlessly integrated into a theatrical vision of such compelling weirdness and whimsical grandeur.