For all the feats of simple human flesh that catch your breath at Quidam, it’s the sudden splashes of red that will get you.
There it is, in the pale shape of a seemingly nude human body, bound high above the floor by gashes of blood red silk; that same body, a moment later, hanging lifelessly by the threads.
There it is in the gentle lift of a single red balloon, fled from a child to trail up towards the rafters.
That this colour is so dominant in Quidam, the latest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza to grace MTS Centre, is no accident. This show, which debuted under Cirque’s big top in 1996, is far more muted than the shows that have made it to Winnipeg before.
It lacks Saltimbanco’s riotous flood of colour. It shies from Allegria’s operatic notes, or Delirium’s wild dreamscapes.
Instead, Quidam wraps most of its 52 performers in worn-out blues and greys and creams and sends them — at least at times — shuffling onto a stage notable mostly for its absence of other drama. At least, until those sudden pops of red bursts out of the background, sucking in the audience’s gaze.
It sounds a little creepy. That’s because it is. But it’s beautiful too, and for many, it hits close to home.
Quidam is, at its heart, a meditation on families and childhoods, as seen through the lonely eyes of a little girl named Zoe. Her father, his face literally buried in a newspaper, drifts through midair; her mother watches as rigid human statues contort around each other, deliberate and seemingly unfeeling.
The only permanent prop on stage is a mutated picket fence that ensconces the six-piece live band; the rest of the space is filled with Zoe’s wondrous escapes, the mysterious and whimsical and sometimes slightly ominous friends she creates.
The circus acts begin as riffs on childhood games, but more than that: they are childhood, amplified. An acrobat wheels around the stage in an oversized hula hoop; a troupe hauls out the jump ropes, whipping them around faster and more devilish as performers in child-like outfits flip and skip and hurl their way through.
But childhood never lasts, and icy domestic impasses never do either: after the mid-show intermission, the acts grow more powerful, more deliberate. A single acrobat flings her body forward on a rectangular trapeze, her hips reaching towards the sky… will she fly? Can she fly?
Most Cirque shows resolve in something like redemption.
This one does too, ending with one of the more stunning feats we’ve yet seen at the MTS Centre and a profound audience gasp: it is a final, fearless reminder that we are never too young, too alone or too broken to leap as high as we can, and still be caught before we fall.
Quidam continues through Sunday with six more shows including Friday and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets begin at $40 for adults and $32 for children, and are available at the MTS Centre box office, Ticketmaster or online at www.cirquedusoleil.com/quidam.