Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Quidam’ an adventure of aerial imagery
The opening of “Quidam,’’ the Cirque du Soleil production currently playing at the Agganis Arena, feels like it was lifted right out of “The Cat in the Hat.’’ A bored little girl named Zoe (Alessandra Gonzalez), stuck at home and ignored by her parents on a rainy day, finds a hat left behind by a mysterious visitor. She dons the hat and is led on an adventure, not by “The Cat in the Hat,’’ but by a quirky ringmaster named John (Mark Ward), whose look and attitude is reminiscent of Pee-wee Herman. Although Zoe reappears consistently throughout the piece, for “Quidam,’’ the theme of a lonely girl’s imaginary dreams is less important than Cirque du Soleil’s extraordinary mix of jaw-dropping circus acts and old-fashioned comic clown routines, held together by an eclectic and dramatic musical score, played by a stellar six-piece band.
“Quidam,’’ which refers to an anonymous passerby, is one of Cirque du Soleil’s earliest shows and offers a lovely insight into the vision of the creators - Guy Laliberte, Gilles Ste-Croix, and director Franco Dragone - for the company: serious art meets serious fun. The imagery in “Quidam’’ is filled with highbrow artistic references, with even a juggler (Patrick McGuire) referencing Rene Magritte’s “Son of Man’’ series, as well as lowbrow bawdy humor, particularly by Toto Castineiras, who elicits some hilarious performances from audience volunteers.
In the midst of the thoughtful vision for the show are some outstanding circus acts, including a German Wheel, in which Cory Sylvester spins, flips, and twists in and around a life-size wheel; Diabolos, a Chinese yo-yo act, in which a quartet of Chinese performers execute intricate dance steps and complicated combinations of spinning and throwing the yo-yos in a routine that is utterly hypnotizing; and an outrageously high energy display of jump rope that combines somersaults, speed, and up to 20 performers in synchronized jumping patterns.
There are also several gasp-inducing balancing acts with a crowd of artists flying through the air, and just two performers - Laetitia Bodin and Remi Chai-Debeauvais - creating a series of statues by balancing on each other.
But the highlight of “Quidam,’’ are all the aerial acts, which utilize a unique piece of equipment called the telepherique, which arches over the stage, allowing different combinations of performers to glide into position, perform, and then slide offstage at the conclusion of the act. These entrances and exits added extra drama to the Aerial Hoops, in which Danila Bim, Lisa Skinner, and Meaghan Wegg fling themselves gracefully around, through and dangerously down from the hoops while suspended in the air; the Spanish Webs, in which the performers slide down, spin around, and climb up ropes; and the Cloud Swing, in which Christy Shelper swings on a rope swing and then flings herself off, held on to the rope by an ankle or leg.
“Quidam,’’ ends back in the house, and like the “Cat in the Hat,’’ order has been restored, but neither Zoe, nor the audience, will ever be quite the same.
Terry Byrne can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this review misstated the age of children who are admitted free.