Cirque du Soleil’s latest show Volta boasts the jaw-dropping circus acts that the company is renowned for against a backdrop of extreme sports and a coming-out narrative. Waz, a successful game show host hides his blue hair, having been derided for it as a child, but struggles with the desire to return to the authenticity of his childhood during which he was also showered with parental love and acceptance. The game show, along with the people who guide Waz on his personal journey, provide the premise for the circus feats that everyone is waiting for.
Among the breathtaking acts is the skipping rope competition, which rose to a frenzy of until-the-moment-of-watching unimaginable speed. We also witness the amazing bounds of parkour, a woman twirling a baton whilst flinging it almost into the rafters, tight rope tricks, gymnastic tumbling, and a unicyclist balancing his acrobatic partner all over his body, including his head.
Waz’s game show co-host is our clown, and the crowd responded warmly to him. I appreciated his skits mostly to get my heartrate back down. Despite being an adult aware that I was at circus, I was genuinely nervous for some of the performers. So was Nathalie’s son, who declared: “That’s dangerous! He’s not safe!” And indeed, it certainly isn’t, for most mortals – the performers did a convincing performance of danger.
While it was thrilling to bear witness to all the athleticism, which climaxed with the adrenaline shot of BMX biking, my soft spot were for the acts that were also beautiful. When Waz finally claims his true blue-haired self, we are rewarded with a celebratory dance number. Distinguished by the absence of circus tricks, this piece resonates with the truer times he has chosen to return to, and is visually stunning for the simple reason that Waz is an exquisite dancer. I was also enthralled by the “hair hang”, during which an acrobat does seemingly impossible feats while being suspended only by her hair. The sensual undulating of her adorned body was some blend of control and power so mesmerizing that I was only partly terrified for her as she gently rose and fell by her hair, ultimately ascending to a peak where we couldn’t see her anymore. Once she was gone, I couldn’t help wondering whether she was real.
While the game show format was a clever way to create narrative thread, Volta wasn’t altogether cohesive thematically – for instance, there are tribal episodes that were odd and out of place. But it succeeds as an entertaining heart-pumping spectacle. The sound engineering was impressive with the singing and drumming carrying well in the space, and the range of utility extracted from innovative staging was beyond clever. Cirque du Soleil is consistently spell-binding, and Volta stands firm in that tradition as a riveting show.
Volta continues at Toronto’s Port Lands until November 26.
Many thanks to Cirque du Soleil for providing tickets to Plenty to Volta, and for hosting a fabulous family giveaway (congratulations again, Dalena!). All opinions are our own.