Cirque Succeeds at Mullins Center

By Alissa Mesibov

When one attends a Cirque du Soleil performance, seemingly impossible acrobatics, over the top clowning and beautiful artistic designs can be expected.

“Quidam,” the most recent incarnation of Cirque du Soleil, had all of these elements at the Mullins Center this past week. What set it apart from other shows of the world-renowned company was its refreshingly dark angle. Everything from the plot to the aforementioned clowns was influenced by the show’s overall cynical point of view.

“Quidam” opens on Zoe, a young girl trying to gain her parents’ attention. Neither a headless man nor the elaborate ringmaster can make Zoe’s father look up from his newspaper. These wonderful and mysterious characters lead Zoe away from the apathy of the real world to the hyper-alive dreamscape of “Quidam.”

Surprisingly, the storytelling in “Quidam” was well done. Many of the show’s creative team members had worked on the last Cirque du Soleil production “Alegria,” which suffered from a thorough lack of plot. While Zoe’s individual story does get muffled in the middle of act two, the end of the show wraps the story up nicely.

The individual acts were nothing short of amazing, even for Cirque du Soleil. Each act had the general format of a fast-paced section wherein the artists push the extremely physical limitations of their actions, followed by a slower section to explore the beauty and artistry of their craft.

While “Quidam” includes typical Cirque du Soleil acts such as contortionists, aerial acts and hand balancing, the acts unique to “Quidam” stole the show. A particular audience favorite was the skipping ropes. Most of the company partook in the act, which takes the concept of elementary school jump rope to inconceivable extremes. Starting with a fast and furious pace, the lead performers, including five-time skipping rope world champion Kata Banhegyi, skipped and spun the ropes quickly enough that the ropes became little more than a white blur. The act then slowed down to a beautiful group section, creating a gorgeous floral shape out of the ropes, as the skippers leaped gracefully, seemingly moving in slow motion. Other stand out acts include the German Wheel, in which a man perched himself in a massive circular structure, looking like Da Vinci’s “Virtuvian Man.”

Of course, like all Cirque du Soleil performances, “Quidam” wouldn’t be complete without the full ensemble number “Banquine.” No props, ropes or bars are used, highlighting the absolute and undeniable beauty of the human body.

If the dark theme of Zoe’s story is not enough to ward off children, then the bawdy clown most certainly will. He encourages female audience members selected to go onstage to show the entire audience their cleavage, curses through less-than-subtle pantomime and has a pair of performers from the audience rolling around the stage together. To those who do not mind the overtly sexual connotations, the clowning is positively side-splitting hilarious.

The music had a far more international feel than other Cirque du Soleil shows, which typically stick to one region. With musical influence ranging across the globe, “Quidam” takes the audience on a musical journey from Spain to the Middle East. The vocals, performed by Alessandra Gonzalez (who plays Zoe) and Jamieson Lindenburg, have a strong pop influence, making the music much more accessible to the average audience than the operatic stylings present in many other Cirque du Soleil shows.

The designs were relatively tame for Cirque du Soleil. The stage was colored a simple grey, with the lighting serving as the main form of transition from act to act, rather than scenic elements. The costumes for the dream world characters maintained the typical Cirque du Soleil surrealist styles, while Zoe and her parents wore everyday clothing. According to the Cirque du Soleil website, this is the first show to incorporate such clothes. This worked incredibly well, giving the audience something familiar to connect to and lead them gently into the world of “Quidam,” rather than throwing them head first into the deep end.

“Quidam” is the quintessential Cirque du Soleil performance. It takes classic circus acts and presents them in a mature way, adding new artistic merit to every aspect of the show.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached for comment at [email protected]