'Cirque du Soleil - Kurios's creator Michel Laprise on the joy of togetherness
Wherever you are, chances are you're in close proximity to one of the 19 Cirque du Soleil shows currently playing worldwide. There's no limit to what a Cirque show can focus on either: Michael Jackson and the Beatles-dedicated shows play in Las Vegas, or you can see the Disney-themed show in Orlando.
Hailed as a cabinet of curiosities, audiences are invited to join a Seeker in a fantastical Victorian era as they set out to change the world. Cirque shows aren't built in a day though, and for Kurios creator Michel Laprise, the latest Cirque London event equates to a labour of love.
“Kurios is a very uplifting show by design. I was fascinated by the power of optimism and how it just makes people happy,” said Laprise. Enthusing about his Cirque creation, Laprise reveals the extent he'd go to in order to watch Kurios around the world and chase that happiness.
“I use my own money to travel to see it." gushed Laprise "I used to travel every month and a half when it was in North America, now I do every three months.” Laprise won’t have to travel for a little while though, as Kurios plays a winter season in London.
We spoke to Laprise about falling for Cirque, creating a Cirque du Soleil show, and how every part meticulously comes together to make a visual feast.
Cirque du Soleil - Kurios is at the Royal Albert Hall.
Book Cirque du Soleil - Kurios tickets on London Theatre.
When did you first see a Cirque du Soleil show and what attracted you to Cirque?
So I'm from Quebec City. Everybody is white, Francophone, and middle class — it was really homogenous in terms of culture. One day, I'm with my dad near an arena in the suburbs of Quebec. I hear beautiful music and it was world music. I didn't know the "world music" expression at the time, but it was something exotic and mesmerising.
I followed the music just like in the Pied Piper. We reach the big top, and there was no money for security or fences, so I was able to reach the canvas. I lifted up the canvas and I saw the audience being so happy! It was mind-blowing, but also very touching. I could see people on stage with different colours, different ways to move, and I started to weep like a baby. It was possible to have variety and diversity in in this predictable culture. I said to my dad, let's see the show tonight. So we bought tickets, and it was just as emotional as I expected.
Cirque was really the proof that everything is possible and humans can express themselves in a very broad spectrum. It was a message of hope and wanting to explore the human condition.
In terms of creating a Cirque show, is it different to directing a normal play?
The language is acrobatic. A Cirque show cannot be intellectual or cerebral, it has to be visceral. You speak to the reptilian brain of people, and that's why it's so intense and people are so moved and taken by it because the way to communicate with them is to go back to fundamentals.
When you write a Cirque show, the show has good chances to last for 15 years and it will travel the world. So when you write, you're not just writing for your part of the world. When I started to work on Kurios, I thought, "OK, this will have to speak to the British audience, the Spanish audience, people in Japan, in Brazil, and for years to come."
Life is changing very fast. I started to work on Kurios in 2013 and back then, we'd only used iPhones for a few years. Because of the life of the show, you have to write something universal. It cannot be the trend of the moment. You have to really go deep, and in order to go deep, you have to rely on intuition.
How long does it take on average to create a Cirque du Soleil show from the initial idea to the first performance?
There's two answers: two and a half years and a whole lifetime. When you see Kurios, you are brought back to your inner child and a sense of amusement. One of the fundamentals of the show is that we use our imagination like a child and a child will take a phone and suddenly, the phone becomes a plane.
In order to bring joy to people, I had to dig in my own life experiences. When I was eight, I met [someone] at summer camp and we became best friends without knowing each other's language. We kept inventing things together.
Kurios is more than a show, it’s a mission. We have to stay true to who we are but we have to find ways to reinvent ourselves. We really addressed everything and gave ourselves a bit more freedom. It’s a big challenge to come up with something new. It’s very Cirque du Soleil, but it’s a new show. It’s truthful to the roots, but there’s an essence of our future.
Are there any acts in Cirque du Soleil - Kurios that we should watch out for?
Every time we come to the Royal Albert Hall, and now it's the 25th year, there's always a few changes we make. But for this one, Kurios is the most significant adjustment of this show as there’s steel works in the building.
It’s for the acronet. It’s a giant trampoline with eight people: seven people form a circle and the eighth guy is in the middle. With the power of their legs, they make the eighth person fly 45 feet up in the air. It’s a discipline that previously did not exist. We had engineers working for months on the act, and we had to adjust the Royal Albert Hall to accommodate it.
We talk a lot about immersive theatre. To me it was not about making things happen in the building itself, it was about bringing the eyesight near. They've elevated the floor, so your eyes will be aligned with the eyes of the performers. You’ll feel closer to the show.
We had to create four columns too. It’s ridiculous, it's so complex. My first theatre show cost less than one of those columns! But the investment was worth it because people wonder how it's possible to create this.
The acronet speaks to the underlying theme of the show, which is we're all in it together. So having people collaborate to send this guy up there allows [him] to go higher. We need to remind ourselves of togetherness right now. You can do things by yourself, but when you're with people, then you will surprise yourself to do something better. Doing things together will bring us so much closer.
Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil Kurios (Photos courtesy of production)
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