A magical world of wonder

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Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, Varekai, Tales of The Forest, opens its UK tour next week at Sheffield Arena with five performances in the venue’s intimate theatre-style Steel Hall.

The show premiered in Cirque’s home city of Montreal in 2002 and has since been seen by almost 10 million people worldwide.

The production pays tribute to the nomadic soul

With an international cast of 50 performers and musicians from 19 different countries, it arrives updated and featuring new acts yet to be seen in the UK.

It is set deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, where an extraordinary world called Varekai exists, a world of endless possibility.

It begins with a solitary young man parachuted into the shadows of the magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world imbued with fantastical creatures, and then taking flight on an extraordinary adventure .

The word Varekai (pronounced ver·ay·’kie) means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies—the universal wanderers.

According to Cirque’s publicity the production written and directed by Dominic Champagne “pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai.”

The young man is Icarus and the story picks up where the Greek myth leaves off. After flying too close to the sun his wings have melted, plunging him down to earth.

His useless wings now detached and his legs limp, Icarus begins the acrobatic action, performing astounding dives and contortions in the net that holds him captive.

The forest creatures lift him into the air, enabling him once again to “fly.”

Varekai emerges from an explosive fusion of drama and acrobatics which is the Cirque du Soleil trademark.

There is the audacity of acrobats hurled high in the air by two Russian swings or the incredible agility and manipulation skills of the fierce young woman baton twirling.

And there’s a pair of clowns interrupting proceedings with absurdist comedy.

A live seven-piece band plays the music composed for Varekai by Violaine Corradi who drew on the traditions of cultures around the world, combining the sounds of Hawaiian rituals, the songs of 11th-century troubadours from the south of France, traditional Armenian melodies and gospel music with contemporary arrangements.

But it’s very much a visual delight with vibrant, flamboyant colours and unusual shapes of the late Eiko Ishioka’s costumes accentuating the artists’ movements within the expansive set designed by Stéphane Roy.
○Varekai is at Sheffield Arena next Thursday, February 2, and Friday at 8pm, Saturday, 3pm and 8pm, and Sunday, 5pm and 8pm.