Cirque du Soleil is well-known for good reason. When I saw OVO last year, I was in awe of the talent, costumes, music, and more. So no wonder I was anxious to see the newest ‘Cirque’ show to come to my area, Quidam. I tried finding reviews or synopses of the show but results were thin. Critics hinted at the premise that a little girl is saddened with her disinterested parents and ends up in an imaginary world with surreal characters. Based on this vague description, I figured it was something similar to a collection of street performing acts. Boy, was I WAY off . . .
Cirque du Soleil shows have a reputation of being a bit odd and abstract but this show was just plain creepy and weird. The first oddity was the venue. We had been to the HP Pavilion a few weeks prior to this for an ice skating show so it was strange to see transformed for performing arts. While a portion of the seating was sectioned off, the ambiance just was not right for such a performance. The tent-setup was more intimate in that you somehow felt connected with the performers as well as the other attendees. Plus, so much was going on in different areas that you could never focus fully during an act.
When the show opened with a headless man holding a bowler hat and a zombie-looking lightening summoner the question marks began to pop up in my head. The other acts continued to have a dark and bizarre tone to them. Mental warning lights began to go off during the act with the performer writhing up and down two deep red pieces of silk. Towards the end of the act she formed the silk into a noose and hung herself, her lifeless body then carried off stage. I tried to shield my daughter but the sight had already sunken into her little eyes. Some would argue that this had deeper meaning while others (we talked with another woman during the intermission) completely denied what happened. To me and my husband it clearly pictured a suicide.
Picture credit : Al Seib
Those that played the parents often appeared on stage, each time bringing with them an eerie presence with haunting ambiance. Death, disappointment, and misery were recurring themes. But that was not all. One act, though physically impressive, was less then desirable. The costumes made them appear naked as they intertwined and embraced each other ‘in many ways’ as the cast and audience looked on. This is entertainment? I thought it was called something else starting with a ‘p’…
The diabolo performers were most entertaining but, in retrospect, somewhat standard. That would apply to most of the performances. While talent and skill was abounding, the acts were all sub-par and had no ‘wow’ factor. My husband described it as a “B-grade show that they are trying to get as much money out of as possible”. For example, there were so many mistakes during the ‘skipping rope’ act that I began to think they meant to keep stepping on them. The choreography was a bit choppy as well in that scenes did not transition smoothly. The ringmaster/clown skits were very apparent as scene fillers with little to no worth.
Picture credit : Al Seib
The clown skits pushed us over the edge. The first time the clown invited an audience member up it began amusing. Quickly it began to spiral into a crude and distasteful presentation. He would make fun of the woman, jump on her, and pressure her to touch him. As they pretended to be in traffic, the clown continually ‘flipped off’ other drivers and after much persistence the woman gave up and joined him. This was tame compared to his faux movie filming in the act shortly following the intermission.
Four audience members were chosen for this act. The clown would give them cues of what to do and they needed to copy him. When referring to the lone woman of the four, he constantly motioned for her to push up her breasts. He also encouraged her to dance and act extremely loosely. What derogatory treatment he showed toward her! The woman had no problem doing this or straddling another gentleman that was laying down on stage. The audience was at first shocked but then began to laugh as the people around them did the same. It ended with the clown firing repeated rounds at all those on the stage until everyone was thoroughly ‘dead’. Aren’t such shootings the reason so many are afraid of angering people or sending their kids to public school? Then the clown jumped on another guy and smooched him.
So what happened after that? I don’t know. We got up right then and left.
Yes, all three of us stood up and left the arena with one hour of the show remaining. No amount of ‘good’ acts would redeem the show as the damage had been done. Utterly disgusted and appalled that this was how we spent our ‘family night’ together, we eagerly drove the 40-55 minutes back home. We were able to salvage the evening by getting back just in time to see The Amazing Race and eat some carrot cake together. It did take a while to get those horrid images out of my head but I’m just so happy that my daughter did not have any nightmares.
I was hoping to share a nice Sunday with my family. I was expecting to appreciate art, beauty, music, and fantastic performances. Instead we walked out of an atrocious excuse to milk people out of money and then hope, since they paid so much, they would force themselves to believe they liked it. Mediocre performances, an uncensored ‘clown’ with free reign, and a frightening approach showed me just how careful we need to be when choosing family entertainment.