According to Cirque du Soleil’s website, Quidam is a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past and swallowed by the crowd. It could be anyone, anybody. Someone coming or going at the heart of our anonymous society. A member of the crowd, and one of the silent majority. The one who cries out, sings and dreams within us all. Quidam is the place that beckons – a place for dreaming and genuine relations where all quidams, by proclaiming their individuality, can finally emerge from anonymity.
Quidam is a beautiful combination of breathtaking acrobatics with a puzzling story line grounded in recognizable human dynamics. The quiet, often dark and moving Cirque du Soleil show, now on tour and coming to a city near you, is rooted in a most basic situation: a child dealing with a distant mother and father, and trying to make her way in a confusing, frightening, and sometimes spectacularly beautiful world.
The show starts with an interactive warm-up as the Rabbit “collects” raindrops in an upside down umbrella while being followed by strongman Boum Boum who claps his fists (gloves) together and makes a loud thunder sound. The audience is then introduced to the ringmaster, John, who welcomes audience members with a few handshakes and even relocates a guest or two.
From there, we are taken to a living room set where we met young Zoe, who is desperately trying to will her mother and father to pay attention to her. Quidam really takes off after a mysterious visit from a tall, headless man in a long dress-coat holding an umbrella in one hand and a hat in another, who goes completely unnoticed by Zoe’s parents.
After that, it’s jaw-dropping act after jaw-dropping act backed by equally mesmerizing music provided by a six-piece band. The acts are a mix of athletic marvels with a hint of adult wonder including juggling, a German wheel, elaborate aerial hoops, cloud swings, and so much more. Still, the show held some dark moments. The aerial contortion in silk was especially moving as the artist made her way up and down the crimson fabric – which mimicked the color of the mother’s dress – with anguish and grace.
It’s a little like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ where there are different layers of depth for kids and adults. Many of the spectacles Zoe observes echo and enhance the world of childhood play. In one act, dozens of performers skip rope in groups, often with several ropes going at the same time. In another, a female performer multiplies the exhilaration of flying through the air on a swing, soaring and turning high above the stage on a rope swing leaving the audience gasping in anxiety.
However, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful acts came from a male and female pair of artists who stunned the audience with their minimalist statue act. Never losing contact, two strong, flexible performers move almost imperceptibly, assuming positions impossible without an impeccable sense of balance. The artists called on their sensitivity and powers of concentration in their quest for perfect harmony. Their act is testimony to the natural beauty of the human body.
My favorite act of all though came from a comically bossy clown, who calls up members of the audience to join him on stage. The first participant had to play the object of affection of an insistent suitor in a car ride. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl but laugh with her at the same time. Later, the clown chose four random audience members to act in a silent comedic melodrama. The participants were all willing and hysterical and all received a loud round of applause but I also felt a sense of embarrassment – in which quickly diminished as the participants left the stage with a hug and handshake from the harlequin. The clown brought the joyful, burlesque, and liberated language of clown in Quidam and reminded me that the circus is forever a universal spectacle.
What you don’t see – but only hear – is a finely tuned and modulated sound system which amplified the sounds of thunder and rain that recurred throughout the show, as well as the voices of two singers and the playing of guitar, violin, drums, saxophone and cello. Don’t tell anyone else this … but through the shadows, I could see one of the sound system engineers grooving to the music.
At two and half hours, the show should satisfy even the most hardcore circus fan. Some elements of it may be frightening for some young children – which is why we left the toddler and preschooler with the grandparents. That and mom and dad deserved a night out on the town – and parents should be leery of sexual humor from the clown scenes and that it does contain some bawdy bits.
The show is different from other Cirque shows I’ve seen in the way that this one left me crying during some acts, awestruck in others, and laughing until my cheeks hurt as well. Quidam is darker than other Cirque shows I’ve seen but much easier to follow. People can relate to the characters, and it’s very intense, and somewhat emotional. The ending is a happy one and I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic upon leaving the arena.
All in all, Quidam represents everything that has made Cirque du Soleil famous – from beautiful aerial performances to jaw-dropping acrobatics to ambiguous meaning and rambling narratives. The show will leave audience members in awe as well as with a desire to do a few more pushups. Or at least that’s what I left with.
Make sure to visit the website to find out ticket information and where you can catch Quidam touring to a city near you. I can definitely tell you that it’s worth splurging on and worthy of a roadtrip as well.
Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of: The Procrastinating Mommy” – a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom.
Disclosure: No compensation was given for writing this article. I received tickets to Quidam via Armstrong Chamberlin who handles local PR for Cirque in Wichita. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil online.