Cirque Du Soleil's anticipated KOOZA show has finally landed in Hong Kong – housed within a yellow and blue big top tent at the city's Central Harbourfront. Running until 3 June 2018 the live production promises breath-taking acrobatic displays, bold slapstick humour and colourful clown performances as it tells the dramatic story of The Innocent – a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world.
Ahead of opening night and pre-dress rehearsal, Quintessentially took a tour behind the scenes to see what it really takes to create a Cirque Du Soleil show.
The company's Artistic Director Dean Harvey, whose role includes looking after the performers and providing emotional support, talks passionately about the KOOZA production saying, "there is such a high degree of theatrics in this show – from the live music to the incredible costumes, dazzling lights and dramatic set design, all these aspects really take it to a different level of circus that you just can't anticipate."
On what challenges they face, Dean tells us that it's not in fact what you might think. "The actual performing and creation of the show is never our biggest challenge. It's physically moving it from place to place that's the real issue and we need each crew member to do this, from our side team to our artists, technical team, everyone is vital."
Watching the artists rehearse backstage balancing on trip wires, trapeze lines and more, it's abundantly clear that each one represents the pinnacle of athletic strength and skill. "Our artists come from all over the world from all walks of life," explains Dean. "Some are born into the circus and come from a long line of performers, whereas others are high level athletes (some at Olympic level) who have transitioned into the circus. The variety of expertise is huge and we are lucky to have some of the best performers. Cirque is also in a fortunate position in that the most talented acts now seek us out as well as us seeking them."
As one such talented act, Cedric Belisle, who joined Cirque Du Soleil almost 10 years ago, has worked on three productions including, Wintuk and Varekai. Playing one of KOOZA's main characters, The Innocent, he talks about how he gets into the zone before the show. "I play a really beautiful and soft character, so the biggest challenge is to bring this softness to the stage amongst the high dramatics of the overall show. A lot of the acrobats have to hype themselves up to get into character but for me it's the complete opposite – I need to listen to soothing music while I prepare and do my make-up, and this needs to be a very relaxing and peaceful time. We all actually do our own make up as it helps us to get into character – the Trickster takes the longest at 1hr 15 minutes!"
But it's not just the performers that have a nerve racking task, Alex Surridge runs the military operation that is the company's wardrobe department, travelling with over 3000 costumes and accessories from wigs to shoes and more. While perhaps only 1000 pieces will be used in the show Alex tells us, "the wear and tear is incredibly hard on the fabrics so we need a couple of options for each performer."
"The contortion act probably has the cleverest costume due to the movement needed from it. For example the chains are made of elastic so the artists can move their bodies with complete freedom. Jewels are also made from silicone so they can bend and don't jam into the performers hips." While comfort is important, safety is also a main concern for the team. "We do about amongst eight hours of maintenance on costumes and shoes each day, for wear and tear but also for safety reasons. There can be no loose threads or snags - especially with the high wire acts and wheel of death."
On what's special about KOOZA, Dean Harvey concludes, "some just love the excitement of the wheel of death, whereas others gravitate to the beauty and the artistry of our chair act, or the hoops and the contortionist. Each person takes away something different which is what's so inspiring about this story. You can watch it again and again and still take something new away."
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