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EDITOR: Andrea Kirk
Michele Hunter
Mark Share
Matt Share
Josh Herz

By Kelly Hargraves


Cirque du Soleil opened their newest endeavor IRIS, at the Kodak theatre last weekend with a star studded premiere that closed Hollywood Blvd for the after party, complete with a Ferris wheel. But it’s what is housed inside the Kodak for the next decade that brought the large crowd.

IRIS is an homage to cinema, and a melange, of circus, Broadway theatre and cinematic screen that combines the human acts of all 3 rings of circus into one small space, while incorporating an age old movie matinee story. Set in old Hollywood, the nostalgic look is best seen in the beautiful costumes, sets and prop pieces of a Broadway production.

The Big Top is gone and replaced by the theater stage that barely seems able to contain the onslaught of images and people who scurry across it. Screen images add texture and depth to some of the acts in a play of shadow and light on the backdrop. Animation techniques first made famous by another Canadian Norman McClaren in his 1960s film “Pas de Deux” similarly give a frame to the dance here.

Cirque metaphorically retains the idea of ringmaster, although he is more Burton than Barnum and Bailey, and instead of clowns we are given some stock characters—the lascivious producer, the whacky wardrobe mistress, and the bitter writer who will do anything to get ahead.

When act two starts we are given a glimpse of every character from central casting at the same time in a flurry of activity by cowboys, gorillas, giraffes, Tarzan, aliens, Betty Boop, Marilyn, etc. it’s kind of like walking down Hollywood Blvd on any given day. (Maybe that’s why they closed the street.)

It’s kind of chaotic, as Philippe Decouffle’s dance choreography doesn’t do enough to make it cohesive. And then the real cirque art starts—with the contortionists, and acrobats-- this time imported from Asia, not Montréal—appearing almost as a song would during a musical—not necessary to advance the story nor even connected to the story line loosely unfolding around it.

One section is a Cinema Noir-esque cops and robbers trampoline act, that seems the most cohesive use of cirque arts and movie story telling, a la “Westside Story”.

Throughout, the most appealing moments remain those old fashioned and extraordinary circus moments of humans who fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and balance with a strength and poise no special effects could create with similar awe.

What’s missing from IRIS, is the nuanced beauty and magic of earlier Cirque shows. The subtlety and intrigue is replaced by snarky comments from the writer character, who is more nasty stand up comic than circus mesmerizer—even when he is in drag.

In his introduction, Cirque founder Guy mentions that this is the 24th year for Cirque. I was at the first Cirque shows in Montréal back then, and have seen several tent shows since then, still haven't seen all the Vegas versions, but I don’t think of IRIS as a culmination of all they are—it really feels like an amusement park for tourists (to get their fix of fantasy), has just opened on Hollywood blvd.

--Kelly Hargraves
Photos courtesy of the production

IRIS a Journey Through the World of Cinema
Kodak Theatre in Hollywood
6801 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood CA

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