052106 Cirque du Soleil: Quidam, Ottawa, ON

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I’m a big fan of the Cirque du Soleil franchise.  If you’ve never seen a Cirque performance I’m sure you’ve heard people go on and on about how awesome they are.  If you have seen one then you probably go on and on about how awesome they are.  I know I sure do.

On May 21st, 2006 I walked a few hundred metres from my apartment on Adelaide Street to the old, pre-renovation Lansdowne Park where the Cirque crew had their Ikea-coloured big-top Grand Chapiteau set up beside our own, ornate Cattle Castle.  I’ve never seen an ‘arena’ Cirque show and I suspect I would be a bit disappointed not being in one of their specially-made circus tents*.  They’re small, they’re fun and they’re cool – the raked house surrounds a circular stage above which any manner of mysterious hardware dangles from the multi-pointed canvas ceiling.

This show’s title character was Quidam, a headless man with an umbrella and a bowler hat, though the main actor was a young girl with an umbrella of her own who, without the use of any recognizable language (a staple of Cirque performances), conjured up a magical world represented by a string of tenuously-connected acrobatic acts.

If I recall correctly the star of the show was a young actress from Ottawa enjoying a stop at home on an endless world tour.  Touring with a Cirque show must be a great gig.  Rather than rock & roll back alley one-nighters you get to spend weeks on end in some of the coolest cities on the planet, and the whole time you’re surrounded by dozens of ridiculously talented circus weirdos.  

How much fun would that be?

In the end this wasn’t one of the best Cirque shows.  It was really heavy on acrobatics, with a Chinese juggling scene that went on too long.  There was basically no story to follow, not even in abstract (or the story was abstracted beyond recognition.  Either way…).  As far as I could discern it was just a lonely girl with an umbrella imagining a series of circus tricks for her own amusement while a headless torso randomly wandered in and out of the empty narrative in an effort to amp up the surreal.

That said, even a weak Cirque du Soleil show is a triumph and I’m not going to stop going to see them anytime soon. 

*Edit: Now that I have I know I was right.

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