A whimsical steampunk fantasy – our review of Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios

reviews Oct 14, 2019

Thirty five years after the very first Cirque du Soleil show went on tour in its native Canada, the company continues to defy expectations with its signature aesthetic that highlights the outrageous and surreal. Kurios is no different.

Set in a steampunk alternate universe with Jules Verne-esque contraptions and a cast of peculiar characters, Kurios takes it up a notch. It is a truly immersive experience, from the sepia-toned backdrop and detailed props of gramophones, cogs and brass fittings (and, bizarrely, a llama head on a stick), to the gypsy/electro/world soundtrack and meticulous makeup.

Where other Cirque shows feature death-defying acts and heart-stopping contraptions, Kurios focuses on illusion to draw wows from the audience. That’s not to say the acts aren’t spectacular — a pilot balances on cylinders as his plane takes flight; Siamese twins separate and rejoin in a wonderful trapeze act. But it’s when the performers subvert expectations and make you question your reality that the show really transports you into this parallel world. Mr Microcosmos opens the doors of his giant, metallic belly to reveal one of the world’s tiniest women in elegant furs and a headpiece. A cyclist pedals, miraculously, upside down.

Guests at a dinner party look up to see their doppelgängers suspended above them from the ceiling, mirroring their moves. There is also a quirky ‘invisible circus’ act with an escaped lion that causes the audience to gasp and burst into laughter and applause.

One of the most visually spectacular acts is of a troupe of electric eels in luminescent bodysuits performing fluid contortions while balancing atop a giant mechanical hand. They ripple, almost seemingly underwater and move as one.

The narrative is loosely based around The Seeker, an inventor, who invites audiences to witness the wonders within his curio cabinet. Storyline, however, is not the point here. It’s the combination of outrageous costumes, dazzling acts and sophisticated presentation is what continues to bring crowds to the Big Top. For a touring circus company in its fourth decade of life, Cirque du Soleil has managed to do the seemingly impossible — meet our increasingly high expectations and then some.

Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities is now playing in Sydney. It will travel to Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide in 2020.

Catherine Mah

Catherine likes to run, eat and read but not simultaneously. If you can't find her doing these things, she's most likely sleeping.