Cirque du Soleil is in its 30th year of wowing crowds – and from their humble beginnings in 1984, they’re now known worldwide as masters of performance, with over 100 million spectators having seen shows around the world. And now, after 12 years of performing their show ‘Varekai’ under the Big Top, it’s making the leap to the big arena format. We were lucky enough to see Varekai in Brooklyn’s Barclays Arena – just the second time for the Cirque troupe in Brooklyn.
Prepare yourself for Varekai: like all Cirque shows, the performances themselves stand alone – if you stripped out the majestic costuming, staging and lighting production, you’re still left with some of the world’s most incredible athletes and performers. Our pro tip: if you read up a little on the story before heading in, you’ll recognise characters and understand the flow of the show slightly more. Not to say that it’ll make perfect sense even then; the beauty of Cirque is the feast of absurdity and magic wrapped in an enigma.
Here’s what you’re in for: the setting is a magical forest, a world called ‘Varekai’, which is filled with creatures that don’t come close to anything you’ve seen in any David Attenborough documentary. The story follows the adventures of a young man, Icarus, who falls, courtesy of some brilliant and downright nerve-wracking movement through a net-like parachute, into the world both known, and unknown.
Part of the meaning of the show is communicated via the word ‘Varekai’ itself – meaning ‘wherever’ in the Romany language of the gypsy wanderers, and the production is true to this nomadic spirit, and art of the circus.
Ultimately, the show’s story, lights and production give way to the performers: the ridiculously talented and trained, who individually or within teams combine to make you applaud in tribute to their displays of skills.
Our favourites included the opening display of strength and skill by the young man as he falls into the world, the beautiful contortionist who woos our protagonist, and the leaping, flying men of the Russian swing sets, a feat of incredible athletic display combined with precision timing.
As always, there’s also quite a bit of humour scattered throughout the show, with a sub-plot featuring a duo who make appearances as ushers, crooning singers and deliver some of the most cringe-worthy, but hilariously awkward stage magic you’ve ever seen. Get along while you can, and check when Varekai might be in if you’re in the US.