Cirque du Soleil’s latest show VOLTA continues their winning, if anticipated, format of narrative blended to dazzling physical performances. Cirque du Soleil’s 41st incarnation introduces Waz, portrayed by dancer Joey Arrigo, as a celebrated star of reality talent show Quid Pro Quo, draped in sparkling gold that disguises his latent individuality. Waz is disillusioned with manufactured corporate entertainment (cue unintentional irony) dished out to the “Greys” focused primarily on conformity and screens as he nostalgically harbors memories of a simpler time played out via video screen flashbacks. Unable to resist his “Volta” – dramatic shift in thought – Waz “outs” his eccentric blue-haired discarding fame to pursue individualism, connections and authenticity.
The storyline, truly a narrative only a new-age aficionado could love, serves as the perfect springboard to the cornucopia of sights and sounds for which this Cirque is renown. Thrilling feats of sport and superhuman acrobatic exploits are bread and butter to this operation and they are magnificently and poignantly enhanced by the powerful soundtrack from French electronic music project M83 and the dramatically compelling vocal performances woven in to the on-stage action. As the show unfolds it shifts swiftly to a full-on sensory experience. Without pause, the gathered audience is soon enrapt by a spectacular series of dazzling performances, from trial bikes to ballet and gravity-defying prowess. A skipping competition takes double-dutch to new heights while amazing aerial displays and summersaulting BMX skate-park displays stun.
Providing comic relief is Waz’s co-host Shood Kood Wood, the circus ringmaster and scene-stealing clown. He brings high-spirited skits that feature malfunctioning washing machines and hallucinogenic day-dreams transforming the short, stout performer in to a riotous crowd-pleasing pot-bellied demi-god.
The impressive circus highlights are many. Standouts include a beautiful, suspended lamp acrobatics routine by Waz’s younger self, portrayed by Pawel Walczewski, that marries impossible strength to effortless, elegance as he spins fluidly through a captivating aerial routine. Aptly, as Volta is also the term of a long ago Italian dance, the ballet-cum-contemporary dance performances are mesmerizing interludes to the vigorous Parkour, energetic shape-diving and rollerblading displays. Also, I’d never seen a hair hang suspended by nothing other than her top-knot, but Danila Bim levitated, twirled and gracefully twisted from the dizzying heights of the big top. The transformation of the circular rotating stage – used to great drama and effect – into a full-on BMX park was astounding, nothing beat the heart-stopping bungee and hoop-trapeze number that had us riveted to our seats in the pre-intermission performance.
Cirque du Soleil takes nothing as a given: from musical and physical performances executed with exacting polish and infectious enthusiasm to sets that feature cutting-edge mechanical and technological innovations and exquisite post-modern stylings and costumes – apart from a featherless headdress that was a shade too close to an indigenous emblem – the exacting production standards of create an experience that is fully immersive and stirring. The adrenaline, execution, finesse and elegance will leave you breathless as Cirque du Soleil delivers a fast-paced evening under the big top that is nothing short of incredible.
You can watch Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA from August 3-27 under the Big Top on the Zibi Site in Gatineau (at the end of the Portage Bridge, facing 9 rue Laurier. Tickets are available online.