Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza arrives in Sydney: a loud, brash, rock n’ roll show with world-best circus acts.
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Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza Skeleton Dance. Photograph via Cirque du Soleil.

With its jaw-dropping athletic skill and high-risk circus acts, Kooza is a celebration of traditional circus. The show is hugely entertaining with breath-taking, heart-stopping acts that had the children seated in front of me mesmerized, and the woman seated next to me screaming at the top of her voice.

The show starts with the image of a boy: an innocent, who enters flying a kite, then encounters the Trickster and is led into the magic world of the Kooza. We soon move however into a traditional circus structure, that is to a progression from one circus act to the next with clowning interludes covering the transitions between each act.

Kooza presents world best circus performers performing traditional circus acts. The Director of Creation, Serge Roy, says the creative team travelled the world to find the world’s best circus performers and circus acts, and it shows. Kooza features wonderful, highly skilled circus artists from Mongolia, Russia, Canada, Moldova, China, Belarus, Brazil, the USA, Italy, France, and Australia; with Wheel of Death artists from Colombia, and Double High Wire artists from Spain.

The clowns are all excellent, and genuinely funny. Joey Arrigo, from Canada, as the high camp Trickster with a magic wand that controls the show is wonderful. His dancing is spot-on and his presence is riveting.

The circus acts are consistently superb, with a stunning aerial hoop act from Marie-Ève Bisson from Canada, but the highpoint of the show was the Wheel of Death sequence. The section introduced surreal Death-Folie Bergères showgirls. With costume design from Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, these characters are reminiscent of a Hayao Miyazaki animation. With strange fake heads with skeletal masks raised on elongated necks, the creatures stand a metre taller than the performers themselves, and are costumed as skeletons decked out with showgirl ostrich-feather headdresses and capes. They shimmy and stalk their way through the audience, before and after the Wheel of Death performance. They are led by the figure of Death himself who, wearing a bejeweled Mexican Day of the Dead mask and a sequined suit, twirls and turns as he leads in the Wheel of Death performers who are costumed like Mexican wrestlers, and enter growling fiercely at the crowd.

The Wheel of Death performance is structured to build in intensity and at the climax of the act, the performers, Jimmy Ibarra Zapata and Ronald Solis Montes, run on the outside of the wheels jumping away straight up into the air only to land on the spinning wheels again seconds later. At this point the woman seated next to me was screaming so loud that it was deafening – in fact most of the audience was screaming.

‘Don’t forget to buy your Kooza merchandise’ says the voice over just before the audience goes out to the interval. This show is not Cirque du Soleil at its innovative best, there is not much in the way of narrative or theme, but what it is, however, is unapologetic, loud, brash, world-best circus with a rock n’ roll aesthetic and live music complete with full-on branding and marketing coming right at you.

The show received a standing ovation at the end, and, at the Sydney premiere the entire audience of close to 3,000 was invited to the after-show party for free drinks provided by Cirque du Soleil’s sponsors.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cirque du Soleil Kooza

Creative Team:
Guy Laliberté – Guide and Founder
David Shiner – Creator and Director
Serge Roy – Director of Creation
Stéphane Roy – Set Designer
Clarence Ford – Choreographer
Martin Labrecque – Lighting Designer
Jean-François Côté – Composer
Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt – Costume Designer
Jonathan Deans – Sound Designer
Leon Rothenberg – Sound Designer
Florence Cornet – Make-Up Designer
André Simard – Acrobatic Performance Designer
Danny Zen – Acrobatic Equipment and Rigging Designer
Rogé Francoeur – Props Designer

The Showring at the Entertainment Quarter Sydney
25 August – 6 November 2016​

Katie Lavers
About the Author
Dr. Katie Lavers is a writer, director, producer and researcher based in Sydney.