For me, 11:11 is a tribute to my childhood, an arbitrary time that somehow is a symbol of dreams, luck and magic. Cirque du Soleil’s performance of “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities” on Oct. 6 exemplified the nostalgia for what many of us have lost, an ode to childlike joy, uninhibited imagination and theatrical acts.
“Kurios” tells the story of an inventor of a hidden, magical world with many secrets to uncover. It’s a celebration of imagination and mechanical adventures that come to life with every twist and turn.
Even on my way to Atlantic Station, where the show took place, the looming white tents of the Big Top instantly attracted me. Passing through the gates from the parking lot was like entering a village. The self-sustaining Big Top required nearly a week to set up, with a fully equipped kitchen, training rooms and physiotherapy areas. At the front of the tent, characters from the show, like Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible (Kazuha Ikeda), as well as two girls on stilts, were outside taking pictures with spectators.
Inside the tent, the clock in front of the stage started at 11:06, and slowly ticked toward 11:11 as the scene was being prepared. As spectators trickled in, the actors had already started performing, with a mad scientist directing the others and playing around with the phonograph and an aviator tossing paper planes in the air from 50 feet above the ground.
The scene itself could be something out of an alternate reality, a retrospective future. Electrical machines like typewriters and turbines filled the stage; I learned later that these objects were created from junkyard scraps. But the beauty of the performance lies in the symbiotic intertwinement of technology and humanity—two opposing ends of the spectrum. In the “Kurios” world, however, the biggest set pieces, including a mechanical hand, train, hot air balloon and leather chest, reoriented us to see the human ingenuity and precision behind it all.
Inspired by the Industrial Revolution, the costumes of the main characters and various set pieces are designed with the steampunk aesthetic in mind. For instance, Costume Designer Philippe Guillotel created Nico the Accordion Man with influence of the early camera darkrooms, which can fold and extend with unbridled flexibility. Another example is the strikingly tall chair that the scientist sits on, geared up with gadgets, an old phonograph and other flying contraptions, reminiscent of the first plane built by the Wright brothers.
Another story character, Mr. Microcosmos, a pot-bellied man with Mini Lili residing in his stomach, is one of the most eye-catching characters of them all. The costume belly is akin to an old-fashioned diving helmet. But the most striking aspect of his outfit is Antanina Satsura, the actress who played Mini Lili. She is 3.2 feet tall and sat atop a velvet armchair; her home – inside Mr. Micro’s body – was completely furnished, with windows and other mini household items. Her appearance drew screams from the crowd, popping up from the top of the belly as if a game of Whack-a-Mole.
The “Kurios” band followed the introductory scene onto the stage and spent most of its time in the caged background of the arch. The live performance, loud enough to echo through the entire tent, was spectacular, not to mention the cellist whose instrument was strapped around her body so she could simultaneously walk and play.
The seamless transitions of actors dancing and music playing while new set pieces were brought out added to the show’s mystique. Every single performance highlighted one or a group of people, but many of the supporting characters shined in their own unique way.
For me, however, the Invisible Circus and the second comedic act by Facundo Giminiez were the funniest of them all. He introduced the circus by calling it a “show you’ve never seen before,” and launched into a purely visual and auditory performance of tightrope walking, with Felipe the lion jumping through a ring of fire and a shy platform diver. Giminiez was “slapped” multiple times after his invisible performers had gotten annoyed with him, causing laughter to erupt in the crowd. For his return in the second half of the show, Giminiez brought an audience member on the stage. With no other props, using only sound effects and his unmatched acting skills, Giminiez engaged in wooing the woman (to no avail), getting interrupted by a parrot, a T-rex and a cat. His cat behavior was the most jarring of them all; he purred, coughed up non-existent hairballs and even sat on the litterbox.
An acrobatic net performance kicked off the intermission. The trampoline net covered the entirety of the stage as actors, dressed as various sea creatures, bounced up and down, performing a variety of classic trampoline routines. Timing was impeccable: it had to be with performers double jumping another actor at least 20 feet into the air, or bouncing them down so they could land in time with the music. Each movement was coordinated with absolute precision, including one harrowing moment where one of the acrobats nearly missed grabbing on the legs of the other acrobat in the air.
Many of the acts were a mini scene in of itself, such as during one act where a guest at the dinner table suspended a chandelier far above their heads. Another started to stack chairs one on top of the other to reach the chandelier, balancing on one-arm handstands every step of the way. Halfway through, the audience gazed toward the ceiling and found the exact same set recreated upside down.
Talking about each of the acts would take an eternity, yet would never do the art of Cirque du Soleil justice. The last act—the banquine—was composed of the greatest number of people. They created human pyramids, somersaults and other acrobatic moves with synchronicity. With smooth jumps, it’s almost as if their hands had built-in springs. In the end, the performers leapt from the audience to the stage, like they were frolicking casually onto lily pads.
Perhaps the most sentimental and pure moment of the whole show was a film projected live onto a hot air balloon, which told an adventure through fingers and a dedicated camera crew. The simplicity contrasted greatly with the high intensity movements from earlier, but the hot air balloon — a refuge of childhood dreams — reprises the curiosity and imagination of adventure and love.
When the clock struck 11:12, the gongs echoed. The performers took their last bows and the show was over. Returning from this mystical reality gave me a night of memories, a temporary escape to a world where clichés run just as rampant as surprises, where complex ideas like love are reduced to their most rudimentary, fundamental meanings.
Sophia Ling (she/her) (24C) is from Carmel, Indiana and double majoring in Political Science and Sociology. She wrote for the Current in Carmel. She also loves playing guitar and piano, cooking and swimming. In her free time, she learns new card tricks and practices typing faster.