Cirque du Soleil

A visual feast of acrobatics, mime, dance and music amid an entourage of VIPs and a shower of popcorn

On The Town | Michelle Falkenbach | October 2008

Acrobats perform feats at the Cirque du Soleil, directed by Dominic Champagne (Photo: M. Mjemirzian)

The chimes have just sounded, as I take my seat, front and center, for the Cirque du Soleil, the visual feast of acrobatics, mime, dance, and music that has thrilled audiences since its founding in 1984. It’s a vast space under the Big Top at the Messe Wien, a theater in the round, where you can see the stage from any seat in the house.

Suddenly, a shower of popcorn falls on the row in front as "clowns" run up and down the aisles, tossing handfuls of it left and right.  Then, as the last of the elegantly dressed VIPs have been ushered into their seats, the tent goes dark.  And the stage comes alive.

A vibrantly colored, mystical forest sets the scene as vivacious creatures in bright hues roam the bamboo-covered stage. An angelic net-acrobat named Ikarus is suspended from the ceiling and commences an intricate series of gymnastic moves, elegantly twirling himself into his web. The journey into the world of Varekai – the wanderer – has begun.

This new show is by far the most colorful of the renowned Cirque du Soleil (French for "Circus of the Sun") tales, outdoing last year’s Delirium, a multimedia/theatrical production that featured remixes of existing Cirque music and reinterpretations of performances.  Directed by Dominic Champagne, the show includes more than 600 explosively pigmented costumes designed by the internationally acclaimed Eiko Ishicka, disarming the  audience in a kind of visual seduction that make two hours go by in minutes.

The show unfolds with everything from tree-like acrobats doing a triple trapeze performance, swirling around like leaves in a storm, to sky-colored children swinging and juggling water meteors and scaly fish like men playing Icarian games – men in bronze and red body suits spin around and are held up by the feet of others. Representative at any "circus" are the in-between comedy scenes, this time making fun of the "dumb blond."

There is always something going on. A white cloud-like "muse" and the rippling water blue raiment of "the patriarch" hold the foreground, while behind, a clown-like creature will be swinging forward and back, in constant motion, while multi-colored flower figures and lilac musicians in the sweeping robes and colors form a moving pastiche, as vivid as a Middle Eastern bazaar.

Varekai got its name from the language of the Roma, or Gypsies, those universally famous wanderers, and means "wherever."  This tale ends when Ikarus becomes captivated by the psychedelic world and takes one of the fantastical creatures to be his wife.

It’s not Las Vegas, where the troupe plays to more than 9,000 guests a night, according to press assistant Ann Paladie. And don’t expect the acrobatics to compare to Andre Heller’s Africa Africa!  But the colorful costumes will brighten up any dreary October evening.

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    the vienna review October 2008