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KOOZA - Cirque du Soleil

Melbourne Premiere, 20 January 2017 - Flemington Racecourse

by Angie Bedford

 

African drumming and a buzzing atmosphere greeted guests to Le Grand Chapiteau at Flemington Racecourse for the thrilling opening night of KOOZA. KOOZA is the third Cirque du Soleil production that I’ve had the pleasure of attending in Melbourne over the last four years. Of the three, KOOZA is the most traditional in its presentation and storytelling, mostly featuring acrobatic stunts less reliant on props and technology than Ovo and TOTEM. The overall concept and story of KOOZA is less compelling and the clown work a tad repetitive, however it still serves its purpose well and is delivered with gusto by Vladislav Zolotarev as an innocent clown, Mike Tyus as a nimble trickster, Ghislain Ramage as a buffoonish King and, as cheeky court clowns, Miguel Berlanga and Michael Garner.

 

KOOZA Cirque du Soleil : Theatre and Events on Web Wombat Entertainment

Photos: Matt Beard Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil

 

KOOZA, roughly translated from Sanskrit as ‘Treasure Chest’, opens up a magical world as navigated by the innocent. Director David Shiner has worked well with many other collaborators to create a traditional circus feel in a charmingly staged production. Set designer Stéphane Roy uses a Bataclan (shifting tower) dressed with sails and Hindi-inspired decorations to create a circus big top. The upper level features an orchestra pit, where a six piece band provide rich accompaniment to all the action, with a variety of world music composed by Jean-François Côté. The two vocalists, Lisa Marie Ramey and Alessandra Gonzalez, are particularly engaging, as is Australian drummer, Paul Butler, who presents a thrilling solo in the second act. To the acts – it may sound like hyperbole, but Cirque du Soleil’s performers are world-class who must be seen to be believed. The aforementioned focus on raw acrobatic skills reveals the potential for the human body.

The first big ‘wow’ moment comes from Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan and Ninjin Altankhuyag, two contortionists from Mongolia. Beautifully dressed head to toe in Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt’s exquisite costumes, these two fine performers effortlessly manipulate their bodies in ways completely beyond comprehension – particularly for this reviewer who consumed six boxes of popcorn throughout the show. Russians Yury Shavro and Olga Tutynina marvel as a unicycle duo, Tutynina taking on the less conventional role of a passenger. Shavro’s sheer strength and finesse is on show as he supports the unicycle and his partner even at almost stationary speeds. A double high wire act featuring Vincente Quiros Dominguez (Spain), Roberto Quiros Dominguez (Spain), Brayhan Sanchez (Colombia) and Flouber Sanchez (Colombia) provides for a thrilling Act One finale. The highest wire is suspended eight metres above the stage, and these lithe men effortlessly walk and cycle the tightropes in one of the evening’s truly heart-stopping moments. Even in such a strong field of performers, it is impossible not to pick a favourite.

 

KOOZA Cirque du Soleil : Theatre and Events on Web Wombat Entertainment

 

Photos: Matt Beard Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil

 

For me, Act Two’s Wheel of Death had me on the edge of my seat. Columbians Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis acrobatically manipulate and interact with a 700-kilogram rotating wheel. The slightest moment of error in this act on opening night reminded the audience of the absolute feat achieved by these performers – a big call as the slickness of the acts draws you into false lull of fearlessness. It is wonderful to have such a world class act in Australia.

 

KOOZA’s Melbourne season runs until March 26 before opening in Perth on April 13. For more information.

 

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