BWW Review: KURIOS- CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Cirque Du Soleil in Singapore
The time is 11:11 to access the world of KURIOS. A time where we will close our eyes and make a silent wish, hoping that it will come true! The wildly entertaining most acclaimed KURIOS- Cabinet of Curiosities had its Singapore premiere on 5 July at the brand new white-and grey Cirque du Soleil Big Top on Bayfront Avenue, beside Marina Bay Sands.
Being my first Cirque du Soleil show, I went in with usual expectations of a typical circus show. Expecting regular seen before acts such as fire-eaters, jugglers, and trapeze artist et cetera but we soon discovered that it is nothing like we have imagined. In the end, our perceptions were transformed, and we were wildly entertained and could not stop talking about the acts the entire night.
KURIOS will be Cirque du Soleil's sixth production under the Big Top to be staged in Singapore with M1 as the presenting sponsor, after Saltimbanco in 2000, Alegria in 2002, Quidam in 2005, Totem in 2015 and Kooza in 2017.
Written and directed by Michel Laprise, the world of KURIOS is set in an alternate yet familiar past. Think industrial revolution era with gramophones, corsets and accordions. It is a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination. A scientist, aka the Seeker, believes in an alternate universe and work to take a glimpse of the marvels that lie just below the surface.
In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, the Scientist gained access into the hidden world, and time stops - a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams await. A collection of otherworldly characters suddenly steps into his makeshift mechanical world. When the outlandish, benevolent characters turn his world upside down with a touch of poetry and humour, they jump to life one by one before his very eyes.
The company includes an international cast of 47 artists from 17 countries, a collection of otherworldly characters made up of world-class gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, hand-puppeteers, yo-yo wizards, clowns, actors and musicians. Together they turn the Seeker's steampunk world upside-down. They are accompanied by energetic gipsy jazz, electro swing tracks from the live band.
As we entered the huge tent, we were greeted by the prelude. Scientists trying to start up a generator and the audience got to interact with the performers who came down from the stage and into the audience. Seemingly to look for a particular someone as they scanned the crowd, spot someone, squint their eyes slightly, before shaking their head and moving on. Moments later, an unsuspecting audience member was brought up and was asked to ride a bicycle that was on stage, as though working with the scientists to start up the generator.
The VIP ticket holders got to enter the tent via a bridge that hovers across the stage, that connects them to their seats. The show opens with a live band on board a train travelling through the audience, and at one point Felipe, the invisible lion even escaped. The fourth wall is broken. The boundaries of the stage have been extended.
Through the various efforts of including the audience in the show, we felt like a part of the alternate world. If you would like a chance to be up close and personal during the performance, be sure to get seats along the aisle. While it was interesting to have many opportunities to be in the show, the traditional way of having an audience member come on stage in a particular segment while the actor portrayed different animals was less than stellar.
The story, a familiar cross between the worlds of The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter, was Well Strung together. What sets KURIOS apart from the other is that there was hardly a dull moment in the show. Even the transitions where done seamlessly and connecting the story. The props and costumes are a visual treat and very apt for the period. There are 426 props in the show, the most of any production in Cirque du Soleil's history. With more than a hundred costumes created to dress the entire cast, The Accordion Man's attire stood out from the rest. Rightfully so, as the costume maker spent an entire week sewing inside the costume. We see corsets, and big hats, a typewriter, gramophones and even hear a wound up brass metal clock.
The elevated trampoline and the trapeze acts are my favourites. A staple highlight of any circus, the ones at KURIOS are over the top and enthralling. Especially, the thrilling performance put on by the male trapeze duo. They are originally thought to be a pair of conjoined twins (they shared one set of pants and did move in unison), but turn out not as they flew on ropes in different directions. Not only were they fluid in their movements, but they also did the entire act topless, exposing well-sculpted abs and muscles. Another memorable one is the balancing artist, who had us sitting at the edge of our seats, palms sweaty as he attempts to balance on an elevated swing.
Rima Hadchiti, who plays Mini Lili, is one of the ten smallest people in the world. At 3.3 feet tall and weighing 41 pounds, her performance was larger than life, captivated the audience with her sassy-ness and poise.
The apparent use of technology and the injection of modern trends in the show was an active attempt to elevate the storytelling. From the use of the spotlights that moved along the perimeters of the ring to the 'magic' of the invisible circus, we noticed it made quite the difference. Especially with the finger puppeteer, cameras were used, and the footage was streamed live. Elements of hip-hop were also present, drawing in relatable and familiar relevance. However, some bits did not seem quite to work so well. Such as the segment with the yo-yo wizard, which might appeal more to a niche group of tweens.
It is impressive and important to note that KURIOS does not succumb to objectify their female performers -a common pitfall and a personal pet peeve. Instead, the creative team focuses on talent and skill. The costumes are also tasteful and fitting for the show.
KURIOS retains the traditional attributes of a circus performance, a well-told story and consistently entertaining. It is also innovative and woke, which breaks down the stereotypes of typical circus experience. It is suitable for all ages and is a guaranteed good time.
KURIOS- Cabinet of Curiosities will be playing under the grey and white Big Top on Bayfront Avenue from now till 4 August 2019.