Show Business

The Cirque’s sweet shock

As always, its new show takes us to a magical realm

Benoit Aubin May 6 2002
Show Business

The Cirque’s sweet shock

As always, its new show takes us to a magical realm

Benoit Aubin May 6 2002

The Cirque’s sweet shock

Show Business

As always, its new show takes us to a magical realm

Our daily lives are framed by routine and predictability, but we know there has to be more to existence than just this pedestrian realm—don’t we? The child we once were remembers, somehow, a place out there where the laws of gravity, efficiency, competition and consequence aren’t so stringent, a world in which strange, beautiful, inspiring things happen.

So, a new show by the Cirque du Soleil is always a shock, but a sweet shock—a revelation, in fact, that the implausible is there for the taking. Just walk under the big top, Alice, into this wonderland where dancers fly in the air in eerie synchronicity, beautiful women fold backwards and tie their limbs in knots, clowns utter a language nobody has ever heard but everyone understands, gymnasts dressed like salamanders slide from one side of the stage to

another, and plenty of impossible things look easy and natural.

Varekai is the name of the new show that premiered in Montreal’s Old Port on April 24, and, as usual, words aren’t sufficient to describe what this production is all about: like other Cirque spectacles (seven of which are currently running abroad), it’s a rich

and eclectic fusion of dance, acrobatics, theatre music and buffoonery, a very modern, hi-tech, stunningly costumed variation on the age-old travelling show. The words “fabulous,” “eerie” and “Felliniesque” have all been used over and over but have fallen way short of evoking the powerful impact the Cirque has: it leaves you speechless, and inspired.

Varekai is a Romany word meaning “wherever,” as befits a gypsy-flavoured show destined to cross the seas and astound the world (it plays in Montreal till June 16, then travels to Quebec City and, later, Toronto). But last week, for the invitation-only crowd of more than 2,000 local artists and celebrities—including Lucien Bouchard, Robert Lepage, Michel Tremblay and Gilles Vigneault—it seemed very much a show for the hometown crowd. This city, perennially plagued by language issues, has invented a new idiom—call it cirquese—in which a composer from Italy, a costume designer from Japan, a local director named Dominic Champagne and performers from everywhere else can get together and create a dream. Benoit Aubin

Benoit Aubin