Friday, July 26, 2013

Writing A Book for Cirque Du Soleil's QUIDAM

I've written before about my experiences seeing Cirque Du Soleil and how I am very curious about the shows' musical theatre tendencies without strongly committing to it. I get it-- the show is, at the end of the day, a circus. But as this latest revival of Pippin has proven, a circus can have a story, and a story can take place within a circus.

Last night, a friend and I had the privilege of being invited to see Cirque Du Soleil's latest tour in New York, Quidam. The acrobatics and physical performances were incredible, to be sure, but the story was hard to comprehend. I would say this doesn't matter, but even as people were building pyramids and unraveling from a sheet many feet in the air, there were always characters about, chasing one another in the background or descending from the ceiling as others performed. Clearly, there's enough of a story element there that they wanted to connect the scenes with, but what it tells is a mystery.

The only thing we can determine for sure is that there is a young girl who is ignored by her parents, so she dons a hat given to her by a headless stranger and enters a strange world of acrobats (Is that Quidam? Is Quidam a place? A state of mind? It certainly was sung several times over the stage bows). Beyond that premise, who knows what was happening half the time. Here are some theories to try to explain the book that tied together some of the things we saw:
  • My friend hypothesized that the imaginative world was hell in the first act, heaven in the second. Or I could argue that there was a Dante 9 circles-esque thing going throughout most of it, with the Mom, Dad and daughter calmly emerging on the other side at the end. Still, they seemed pretty chummy with all the cast members at the end so maybe it was more of a Labyrinth-type situation.
  • A group of minions dressed all in white (who also strangely act like seals) decide to separate the parents from the little girl so they can teach them the importance of acknowledging their child. 
  • A white cat-like creature that tumbles in and out of the scenes is a Cheshire Cat archetype meant to lead and simultaneously confuse everyone (most of all, me). 
  • A purple character named John is a creepy host figure. My friend hypothesizes he's the devil. I read somewhere he might be a father figure since he literally steals the dad's shoes and steps into them. 
  • Balloons symbolize innocence? There sure were a lot of them in there, and they were always held by the little girl. At one point someone tries to catch one in a cage? So maybe all these strange characters are trying to preserve her sense of wonder? 
  • At one point during the statue routine, where two acrobats were meticulously balancing on one another, some strange figures descended from the ceiling. Both wore white robes. One looked like it was crying blood. I'd like to say I have a theory on this one. Nope, I got nothing. That just happened. 
  • The last act of the night was the Banquine routine, with everyone dressed up like especially destitute Newsies. Newsies, in Quidam, don't just soak the competition. They throw young girls at them, and then subsequently catch them on their shoulders.
All joking aside, I will say that the physical feats and great production values of a Cirque Du Soleil show never fails to impress. Not to get all heavy, but especially in light of the performer who died in Ka in Las Vegas not too long ago, it's important that we not take for granted the immense talents people bring to these shows and the risks they take to share them. For those who can make it, enjoy Quidam and all the great stunts it has to offer. Just don't try too hard to decode why a girl in antlers might be chasing a guy with twig-woven wings around the stage during the interludes.

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