by Kevin Rushworth
From the very moment the character of the Trickster — a devilishly impish individual — leapt from the jack-in-the- box to start the Cirque du Soleil festivities, the crowd’s electricity hummed and sparked. Those who attended the packed show knew they were in for an astounding extravaganza that only the famed circus could deliver.
Kooza, the latest internationally renowned Cirque show to roll into Calgary, is all about a return to the circus tradition. To the aud- ience’s delight, bumbling clowns— everybody’s favourite fools— and jaw-dropping, gravity-defying acro- batics made up much of the show.
A boy, garbed in striped clothes, known as The Innocent is only one of many characters who come to life on stage. Mere seconds before The Trickster appears, the young boy is seen flying his kite. As naive as they come, he is totally unaware of his own world but comes to gain knowledge and insight in the world of Kooza. The name Kooza comes from the Sanskrit word “koza” which means chest.
The Innocent is drawn into a chest on stage where he finds himself in a carnival world created by The Trickster who pulls all the strings. Once in the realm, both the audience and The Innocent are treated to a cast of weird, wacky and just plain wonderful characters, including the king of the clowns and his comical henchmen. Whether the acrobats are dancing, balancing on balls, or showing the true peak of human fitness and physique, the show flowed effortlessly from scene to scene.
The costumes of Kooza are a whirlwind of colours and spectacle—nothing short of a kaleidoscope for the eyes. With a combination of 175 costumes and 160 hats, every character is individual and strikingly beautiful in their own way. Lighting and audio worked hand-in-hand in order to create a seamless world in which audience members were honoured guests.
Pounding drums, soaring live vocals and a perfectly meshed combination of African Jazz and sounds from the east brought us into the world of the original carnival. Twenty-three feet up in the air, a muscle-bound acrobat balances seemingly effortless on a stack of chairs. Tightrope walkers — a crowd favourite and a heart-stopper — step and leap carefully over each other back onto the rope.
In a surprise turn of events, Mayor Dave Bronconnier was pulled onto the stage by a character known as the Pickpocket — a master scam artist. Unaware of the Pickpocket’s fast hands, Bronconnier soon found himself without a tie or a watch. While weird, yet strangely human characters live within this realm, it is the stunts and the acrobatics themselves that complete the wondrous world of Kooza.
Under the big top — or the Grand Chapiteau — we have to suspend our thoughts of what our human body is capable of. It is a place where magic rules, where adults become kids again, and where the power of the human body is king. Kooza runs until October 24 under the Big Top at Stampede Park.