You no longer need to drive to Vegas to see one of the mystifying productions from Cirque du Soleil. The circus’ latest production, Iris: A Journey through the World of Cinema, finds a permanent home in the heart of Hollywood and film lovers like me could not be happier.
I should start by saying that I am a fan of Cirque productions, having scene Mystère, Kooza, and Love and loved each. I am an even bigger fan of film, having dedicated my life to the industry. So the thought of a journey through this medium, with the promise of fantasy and amazement that a Cirque show holds, was more than I could resist.
Iris is a large-scale production that was created exclusively for its permanent home at the Kodak Theater. The show combines acrobatics, dance, projections, and live music and blurs the lines between performance and moving images. It explores the art of cinema as only Circque can do!
The show, which is choreographed and directed by Philippe Decouflé and Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman features over 72 performers, 200 costumes, and 160,000 watts of sound across 8,300 square feet of performance space (not to mention aerial space for the most stunning performances which take place above the audience’s heads).
From the moment I entered the theater, I felt as if I had walked into the set of Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece Hugo. The grand Parisian atmosphere and the nod to the history of film were equally present. The Kodak was transformed into a place of wonder and the show begins with an invitation from its offbeat circus conductor to join him on a journey. The play takes the audience into a world of shadow and light beginning in the silent era of black and white film and following the advances in technology to the special effects and talkies of today.
The story focuses on two artists- Buster, a composer looking for love, and Scarlett, a naive actress yearning for stardom. Buster spots Scarlett and the two embark on a cinematic love story through time. We journey with them through the genres of film including film noir, adventure, sci-fi, and the western. In any circus, even one as fantastical as a French Canadian Cirque production (hailing originally out of Quebec) we must have clowns. Iris is no exception, finding it’s large scale performances balanced by comedic skits including a mock Academy Awards complete with audience participation.
Some of my favorite acts include the female contortionists whose costumes, snake-patterned leotards, add to the illusion of moving images and awe-inspiring flexibility. A strap acrobatic act featuring two male aerialists soaring above the audience reminds me how much grace can be found in unmatched strength. Two of the best performances included the more quiet film strip- a boxcar on stage that mimicked a film reel with each box showing images that progressed like a flipbook into a moving picture. Its more grandiose counterpart included a full blown film set complete with a safari theme, trampolines, and an entire crew filming a movie within a movie, within the play!
The use of light and dark to instill emotions of joy and fear were highlighted by the score and costumes. Costumes crossed the line between props and machinery, and my favorite was the mechanical skirt that served as a film projector, spinning around a beautiful silhouette while telling its own story. The show also incorporated live footage, shot by a team of cameraman in the cast, that was used throughout the show to mix illusion with reality.
Iris is at once romantic and tragic, showing the evolution of film and exploring the pitfalls of this industry. It uses acrobatics and illumination as the language of this story and in my opinion does not disappoint.
To do a show about cinema in Hollywood- at a theater that is home to the Academy Awards none the less- is certainly a challenge. For me, Iris undoubtedly finds its home.
Watch videos from Iris here.
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