by Stephen Johnson
Photos: Patrice Lamoureux/ Costumes: Zaldy / ©2017 Cirque du Soleil Inc.
This summer, Ottawa-Gatineau has come alive. Whether it has been the giant dragon and spider roaming the streets of Ottawa or the majestic horticultural sculptures in Gatineau, the region has been buzzing. The Cirque du Soleil production, VOLTA, is keeping the party going.
I have been to a couple of Cirque du Soleil productions and have come to expect vibrant costumes and incredible acrobatics. Having attended the opening night of VOLTA (along with Prime Minister Trudeau, but I did not get a selfie!), I can only describe the show in one word: Amazing!
The show started with a pre-show. An array of entertainers were walking around keeping the crowd amused. Once the doors of the big top opened, everyone streamed in and the crow was ready to be entertained. The show did not disappoint. The opening entertainer had everyone in stitches, even taking a few friendly jabs at Prime Minister Trudeau.
Once the actual show started, it was off to the races. This production is set on the planet Volta with the lead character Waz being the host of a game show. Waz wants to break free of the game show and discover his true personality. We get flashbacks of his childhood through video imagery, and sprite-like characters lead him on a journey of self-discovery.
I’ll be honest: while the story was good, I was most impressed by the incredible tricks of the performers. There are outstanding acrobatics but a few elements you would not expect in a Cirque du Soleil show. BMX riders performed incredible feats that involved riding off ramps. Also, there was a parkour performance in which the cast were swinging, jumping, hopping, bounding, etc. from incredible heights and angles. Another favorite piece were the hoop divers who seemed more flexible as adults than I have ever been, even as a child.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping performance was from a female acrobat who was suspended from her hair. She performed death-defying stunts and also movements of great beauty. I will not soon forget her performance.
While the performers are integral to the show, the lighting, music, costumes and set are equally as important. Attending the show was like being in the hippest nightclub in New York City. The lights and music combined to transport the audience to a different world. The set was something out of steampunk imagination with the floor rising and descending with almost a robot-like automation.
While I did not attend the show with our nine-year-old son, David, I would feel comfortable taking him it. The storyline is family-friendly and the performances are outstanding. Younger children may be scared by the costumes and louder music so it is probably not recommended for the under-five set.
You can catch VOLTA until August 27 at the Zibi site in Gatineau. It is just over the Portage Bridge. You can’t miss the Big Top tent. For show and ticket information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta.