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Review: Quidam, a Cirque du Soleil production

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I’ve only been to the circus once before.

My family and I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría when I was about 11, and my brother was only a toddler. Coming out of a Cirque du Soleil show, it’s hard to put such a breathtaking experience into words. Alegría is Spanish for ‘joy’, and I think this pretty much sums up the pure elation and thrill I experienced watching this show as small child.

Quidam is currently on show at the AIS in Canberra, and I was thrilled to go along to the opening night. And I have to say, I went straight back to childhood – for a few hours, I suspended all belief and just let awe and wonderment completely take over.

If you’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil production before, Quidam will take you beyond what you could ever imagined a circus performance could deliver. Of all the Cirque du Soleil productions, Quidam is unique in it draws upon and explores real-world concerns, rather than being set in a fantasy realm with larger-than-life characters.

The story centres on Zoé, a young girl ignored by her distant and apathetic parents. Bored by her everyday life, she slides into the imaginary world of Quidam. Here, she meets characters who excite and enchant, challenge and inspire her, and encourage her to free her soul and her mind. Her parents, Mother and Father, also enter the world of Quidam to discover passion, pain, and ultimately find redemption.

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The Latin word quidam means ‘someone’ or ‘a person unknown’. The production explores the concept of the nameless passer-by, and plays with how anonymous strangers can ignite change and creativity in those they meet. The world of Quidam is a place for dreaming and genuine connection.

Anonymous figures move hauntingly, seamlessly and jokingly across the stage throughout the production – sometimes you don’t notice them until they are gone. At other times, they breathe life into the characters around them, or support them in their extraordinary feats.

Every single act and artist takes their performance several steps beyond my comfort level.

The intensity of the aerial silk contortion took my breath away – it is so graceful, deeply sad and terrifying to watch. The crowd gasped and cheered throughout the daring diabolo and skipping rope acts, and if you’re looking for something to inspire you to go back to the gym, the sheer power and strength displayed by the hand balancing and Spanish web artists should do the trick.

We laughed a lot throughout the show, as Quidam intersperses its more poignant and fear-inducing acts with shots of white-hot, laugh-out-loud comedy. The Clown Cinema act is a fantastic pantomime slash improvisation using audience participation, the ringmaster John is a quirky renegade who injects a daffiness into everything he does, and the characters bring a fun and light-hearted touch to a quite serious storyline.

Quidam is ultimately about human emotions and experiences, and the characters reflect the powerful, sometimes unexpected connections we form with people around us.

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The level of detail in the production is phenomenal. Each night, the cast of 46 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors will use 2,500 individual costume pieces, 500 costume accessories and 200 pairs of shoes.

All the shoes are hand-painted to blend in with the colours of the costumes, and these shoes are retouched and painted before every performance. The Quidam wardrobe team travel with washing machines and dryers to care for the costumes, which are all washed daily.

The stage includes a rotating floor which represents a constant state of flux, how the world around us is unpredictable and never as we expect it to be. The set and lighting shift effortless to set the atmosphere of each act, and the mood of the show is intensely and beautifully shaped by the live six-piece band accompanied by two very talented singers.

My favourite act of the evening was the Statue performance. Again, if you need motivation to get back into yoga, this is it.

The two performers are inextricably connected, supporting and balancing each other. It is honestly one of the most heart-stopping, moving and powerful things I have ever seen. The act is a testament to the power of concentration, and the trust that can exist between two people.

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Having been on show for 19 years, Quidam will finally come to an end when the Australia and New Zealand leg of the tour wraps in February 2016. This is possibly your last chance to see one of the most poignant, enjoyable and popular of the Cirque du Soleil productions in the company’s history. Don’t let Quidam pass you by. 

the essentials

What: Quidam, a Cirque du Soleil production
Where: AIS Arena, Leverrier Crescent, Bruce
When: 11 – 20 December 2015
How much? $75 to $165 with discounts for children aged 2 to 12 years and Groups 12+
Tickets: At cirquedusoleil.com/quidam or ticketek.com.au

The author and her guest attended the opening night of Quidam courtesy of Cirque du Soleil, however her opinions remain her own. She thanks the cast and crew of the production for a truly spectacular evening.

All images courtesy of Quidam and Matt Beard, photographer

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