15/02/2019 - 17/03/2019
KOOZA™ is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil ® that combines two circus traditions —acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.
“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad,” says the show’s writer and director David Shiner. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too. As it evolves, we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power.”
The show starts with the Trickster bursting onto the scene like a jack-in-the-box in front of The Innocent, and that’s just the first of many surprises to come. The Innocent’s journey brings him into contact with a panoply of comic characters such as the King, the Trickster, the Heimloss, the Obnoxious Tourist and his Bad Dog.
Between strength and fragility, laughter and smiles, turmoil and harmony, KOOZA explores themes of identity, recognition and power.
The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvement. The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza,” which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure,” and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a “circus in a box.”
• The cast and crew of KOOZA represents 19 nationalities: Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.
Review by Carrie Rae Cunningham 16th Feb 2019
Approaching Alexandra Park looking for our destination, there is no mistaking that we are in the right place as we round the corner and there, in all its impressive striped glory, is the Grand Chapiteau. The circus has come to town.
Rather, the Cirque has come to town. Within the walls of that towering big top, the legendary Cirque du Soleil has set up residency in Auckland for a four-week run of KOOZA, a show that promises a return to the origins of the company through the circus traditions of acrobatics and clowning.
As we take our seats, we are treated to some pre-show comedy as a motley crew of clown characters in various personas – the rude tourist demanding the best seats in the house, the ‘venue manager’ trying to keep the stage clear, the trench coat-clad ticket scalper (who looks more like a flasher). They interact with the audience brilliantly, creating mini-scenes that see [willing] patrons get up on stage to wear a tutu and dance or be systematically ejected by the clowns for not being in the right seats. This pre-show-show for KOOZA is just one of the many finer details of any Cirque production that work together to set the scene and set up the audience for what everyone expects to be a stunner of a show.
Cirque du Soleil turns 35 this year, and their reputation as the authority in nouveau cirque precedes them wherever they go. There is an expectation of absolute excellence – dare I even say perfection – with anything they do. When the Cirque comes to town, it’s a big deal. Combining heart-stopping feats of human strength, balance and circus skill with a dramatized storyline, exquisite costuming and set, brilliant live music and eye-watering production values, Cirque du Soleil shows are nothing short of spectacular. But are they more than just spectacle?
KOOZA introduces us to the childlike and playful character Innocent trying to get his battered kite to fly. Enter the charismatic and cunning Trickster who draws the Innocent into a fantasy world of outrageous characters and exotic sensations in a dream-like environment. Both he and the audience are taken on a journey through a series of incredible circus performances that meet then exceed all of our expectations. Again, and again.
Two stunning contortionists tie themselves in all kinds of knots and balance perfectly on one another, creating living sculptures that really have you wondering which body part belongs to who and how on earth is that even physically possible. Then one of them does this CRAZY move that makes you think she has actually disconnected her bottom half and is running it around her top half. The couple sitting behind me let out a very loud WOOAAAHHHH – as does everyone else. It’s quite a sight to behold.
A dynamic duo performs a balancing act with amazing precision. On. A. Unicycle. The Straps performer soars around the big top high above us suspended by one foot, then finishes her act with a body spin so unbelievably fast she becomes a complete blur. A hoops expert demonstrates her own contortionist and balancing abilities while seven silver hoops whirr effortlessly around every appendage she’s got.
The intrepid high wire quartet are freaking everyone out enough by just casually running back and forth on the double-decker wires suspended over 7 metres in the air above us. Then they sword fight. Then they jump rope and play leap frog. Then they stand on each others’ shoulders! THEN THEY RIDE BICYCLES AND BALANCE ON CHAIRS. AT THE SAME TIME!!
The Wheel of Death elicits the most audible gasps from us spellbound onlookers. And rightly so. It’s an ominous apparatus that takes over the big top – a giant rotating metal frame with two large wheels at either end that when walked in propels the entire structure through space. Two performers take turns climbing in and on the wheels. Then they start jumping inside the wheels as they spin at such a cracking pace we can feel the air whoosh past our faces. Then they are on top of the wheels and jumping along with the centripetal force created, being propelled so high everyone keeps gasping more and more with each jump, which gets higher and higher with each rotation. They are jumping so high I can barely watch. Then they are jumping impossibly high AND jumping rope! WOOOAAAAHHHHH shouts the couple behind me again. WOOOAAAHHHHH shouts the rest of the crowd (including me, peering from between my fingers).
And then! And then! This is how the show goes. This is what we have all come to see. This is what we expect – what we demand – from Cirque du Soleil. We are all here to be entertained, astonished, surprised, stunned, even frightened! We watch in amazement the daring feats of anti-gravity, physical strength and balance, of physics gone wild. We drool over the costumes and set design, the impeccable lighting and visuals. We revel in the drama of the music performed by a live band because a recorded soundtrack just wouldn’t cut it for a show like this where every moment is balanced (sometimes quite literally) on a knife edge.
KOOZA is thrilling to watch, and spectators are easily (and willingly) whisked away into the other-worldly sights, sounds and sensations expertly created, choreographed and executed throughout the show. The kaupapa of the Cirque du Soleil experience is to combine circus arts with an overarching dramaturgy that explores themes that affect humanity, such as identity, belonging and power, creating a circus show that goes beyond the sum of its spectacular parts. This, alongside an obsessive eye for production detail, is what places a Cirque show in a league of its own. However, its sometimes difficult to see beyond the spectacle, and we as audience members can easily get caught up in the sheer pageantry of it all.
If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful, something you can talk about on the way home and into the next day over breakfast, there are plenty of local live performance options out there for you. If you’re looking for a thrilling, fun and entertaining night out, something you can ooh and ahh (and WOOOOOAAAAHHHHH) over, look no further than KOOZA. It’s pretty spectacular.
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