Inside the Box of Kurios opened with me inside of a large wooden crate with characters pulling away boards and peering inside, like I was the latest delivery of the act’s zany roster of characters. As this view faded into the next scene, the box had apparently been opened, putting me directly on stage as a top-hatted man, with what appeared to be a diving bell for a stomach, approached me. With a knock on the hatch atop the vessel, out popped a little woman adorned with a fur scarf and fancy ’20s clothing. Speaking gibberish, she seemed to greet me.
In the back left and right of the stage were platforms housing artists with various instruments who scored the scene live as the action unfolded. As curious characters dropped from the ceiling and emerged from the darkness around me, a giant mechanical hand rolled onto center stage.
Atop the hand was a series of wriggling appendages, silhouetted by a bright backlight. As the stage lights came up, I could see that the appendages were actually the arms of four women that were intertwined with one another, resembling a mass of flesh more so than individual people. As they unravelled themselves I could see that they were dressed in striped and dotted skin tight outfits with fin-like membranes adorning the lengths of their arms and legs; they moved fluidly about the mechanical hand, performing a series of incredible contortions as they stacked atop one another.
It was clear that the contortionists were the main act at this segment of the experience, but all around me were other characters doing equally interesting things. A man in a lab coat sat atop a huge chair behind me, observing the scene and occasionally marking his notes; the top hatted man with the diving bell stomach walked around me flapping a soft-covered book up and down like a butterfly; the fancily dressed little woman sat in a chair off to my right with a phone to her ear, laughing and pointing as she watched; an exhaustive list would go yet further.
After the contortion act, the hand reeled away from the stage with the performers returning to the entangled form from which they came. At this point a man dressed like a genie of sorts, with a glowing bulb atop his head, approached directly in front of me and began to wave his arms about, speaking to me without moving his mouth. Whereas the rest of the sound from the scene was coming from around me, I could hear the voice of this character ‘inside’ of my head, as though he was communicating telepathically.
I watched as he motioned to extract my thoughts and ushered forth the next act which opened with a train prop pulling onto stage and out of it popped a huge new cast of characters dressed in 19th century garb. Around me had coalesced a gypsy-jazz style group of musicians who scored the scene.
A female singer, audibly to my right, noodled in a foreign language to an upbeat rhythm of double bass, accordion, banjo, and more, while the characters in front of me danced about and drummed on luggage from their train ride. A juggler took center stage briefly, impressively mixing a cane into his pin juggling, even at one point being pulled high up into the air on a wire while continuing to juggle. As I turned to see the band around me, I could clearly hear their respective instruments more clearly in front of me, or to the side as I was looking forward at the main action. Many of the band members were watching the action too but would occasionally look over at me and gesture with a nod or a smile.
The climax of the event came as the music switched into high gear and the train-goers created a continuous circular walkway of chairs by lining them up one after another as a slender woman in a dress and sunhat skipped across them. This moment was wonderfully choreographed, directed, and filled with action—a genuine spectacle—with the viewer right at the heart of it all.
As quickly as they came, the troop was rushed away by the little woman as though they were late for another train they had to catch. As everyone else was shuffling to the exit at the back of the stage, the woman looked directly at me and said “You’ll always be with us,” quickly turning her back and walking ever so properly directly away from me, silhouetted against the illuminated exit, leaving me with a unique view that wouldn’t be possible without this perfectly positioned VR perspective.
The only issue I had with Inside the Box of Kurios was the lack of fast-forward or rewind capabilities so that I could seek to my favorite parts without watching the entire 10 minute performance. Otherwise, it was clear to see how Felix & Paul’s proprietary camera tech has improved since Strangers with Patrick Watson, with the video quality and stereoscopy looking better than ever.
If you’ve got a Gear VR handy, Inside the Box of Kurios is your (free) ticket to a world-class VR Performance—enjoy!
Photos courtesy Cirque du Soleil