Cirque du Soleil
MGM Grand,Las Vegas
31st August 2012
We saw Ka several years ago during its preview month, and were keen for a repeat. The memory plays tricks, and back then we were way up front, and this time we were in the cheap seats. The mechanics of the show were spectacular with the stage twisting and turning and ending up standing upright. I remember far more archers firing arrows right over our heads (at the front). I recall more drummers. As with all these semi-circus narrative shows, you assume that they shift with time and that the cast changes may change the special turns. Or maybe the volley of arrows hit someone. I didn’t remember the guy on the revolving wheel, but that was the high point of the show. But that may have been clearer from further back. It wasn’t quite as good as my memory of the first time, but that’s been true of other shows like this (O, Slava’s Snowshow) that I’ve seen twice. I think it’s inevitable that the element of surprise is an important part of the experience.
The revolving stage has vast voids around it into which performers fall out of sight, and this is used to effect when the stage is at 45 and 90 degrees. It’s also used for the ship in a storm scene. This seems to use a rocking boat (moved by the artistes) rather than mechanics. It could have been employed in the Shakespeare shipwreck trilogy at Stratford, but wasn’t. I suspect you need strong acrobats to shift and rock the boat.
I couldn’t follow the plot then, and couldn’t tonight, but it doesn’t matter. The acrobatics are spectacular, the stage movements awe inspiring. The martial arts bits seemed less impressive, and from a distance the cast seemed less Oriental. The colour, costumes, smoke and lights are state of the art. I’d rate both Love and O as better, but that’s really first rate company to be compared with. This does suffer from confusing storylines. The fights are the best I’ve ever seen (on ropes at 90 degrees to a vertical stage), but I was never sure who was fighting who. I didn’t care though.
Audiences are weird. I expect people to go out for a pee, even if 90 minutes is the exact time of these Cirque du soleil shows. I don’t expect them to come back with another quart of soda. The guy slightly to our right got two refills in 90 minutes. (His wife had to get them). Unlike “Love” this audience seemed unaccustomed to theatre. People were arriving in the first ten minutes of the show, and as they were laden with pails of popcorn and quarts of fizzy sugar water, they weren’t late but had decided to stop on the way to refuel. During the curtain calls, many just walked out. It’s a slow shuffle to the exits, but I find that extremely discourteous to performers who have worked so hard and so brilliantly. But, hey, what would Las Vegas be without arseholes?