I don’t really know what happened, but I know it was beautiful. Zarkana, Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, is a breathtaking fusion of spectacle and theatrics with very little narrative to tie it together. But when one is being constantly dazzled by the wonders happening onstage, do we really need a plot?
Written and directed by François Girard, Zarkana blurs the lines between real and surreal, fantastic fairy tale and Tim Burton-esque horror in a stimulating and supernatural world. Narrated by Zark (Christian Goguen), a Merlin-like emcee of the spectacle, it opens in what appears to be a house of magic, filled with mystical creatures embarking on mystical adventures.
While Zarkana purports to have a plot, it is difficult to follow, as the songs, sung by Goguen and Meetu Chilana, who plays all of the female parts, are not sung in English as they were in last year’s production; they have been translated into “Cirquish” – the invented language that Cirque has made famous. But after resigning myself to the fact that I would not understand what was happening onstage, I simply went along for the ride.
And what a ride it was. Featuring a cast of more than 70 international artists, Zarkana features outstanding performances by its talented and versatile cast.
A series of contortions performed by Anatoliy Zalevskiy is both breathtaking and inspiring to witness. The “Wheel of Death” is aptly named and ably conquered by Carlos Marin and Junior Delgado in an impressive feat, and several trapeze acts are performed but thankfully are not repetitive of each other.
One of the more interesting acts was Erika Chen, who, using her elbows, drew pictures in a pool of sand. Many of the drawings were of occurrences that had already taken place during the performance and while the rest of the drawings seemed to be offering a preview of what would come.
A pair of jabbering, mischievous clowns provide some light-hearted relief from some of the darker aspects of the show, such as a child falling into a magic cauldron of some sort of potion and undergoing some disturbing transformations that include sprouting a few extra pairs of arms. I hoped she would be rescued before the conclusion of the show, but she was not.
The sets depict the mysterious world where all of this takes place. At times they are a bit much, such as the digitally rendered snakes that appear to be surrounding the stage during one scene. But even if they made this reviewer slightly squeamish, they helped complete the transformation into the magical world where, seemingly, anything is possible.