You’ll never look at a hamster running inside a wheel the same way again. Two horned daredevils propel a suspended 1,600-lb double- caged apparatus, Wheel of Death, by running and leaping inside, outside and backwards across their respective steel purgatories. The audience collectively gasps. Some cover their eyes. That’s when KOOZA’s writer and director, David Shiner sends in the clowns to dissipate the heart-stopping tension!
Shiner’s vision when creating the Cirque du Soleil production of KOOZA, was to combine two classic circus traditions: the art of clowning with the spectacle of acrobatic performances. Inspired by the Sanskrit word, koza that means “box,” “chest,” or “treasure,” Shiner devised the idea of “a circus in a box.” And so the show begins with the character of The Trickster leaping from a jack-in-the-box opened by a child-like character, The Innocent. It’s more like a Pandora’s box, out of which spectacular acrobatic vignettes appear while hilarious antics of The King of Fools and his two clown sidekicks are unleashed on an unsuspecting audience.
“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad,” says Shiner, 62, now based outside of Munich, Germany where he lives with his wife. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too. As it evolves, we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power.”
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, David Shiner was greatly influenced by the vaudeville era, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and inveterate clown, Jerry Lewis. You could say he ran away to join the circus but actually began as a street mime in Paris in the 80s and was discovered in 1984 at the renowned circus festival Cirque de Demain. Shiner went on to perform with a succession of well-known companies including the German troupe Circus Roncalli and the Swiss national company Circus Knie. Between circus engagements, he toured with Cirque du Soleil veteran clown, René Bazinet performing the two-man show they created. “The clown takes our deepest human weaknesses and makes them funny. The clown is also an anarchist, and gets to break the rules,” Shiner explains.
He joined Cirque du Soleil in 1990, performing in Nouvelle Expérience, which toured for 19 months throughout Canada and the U.S. and played for another year in Las Vegas. His creation of a mock “silent movie” routine in which he steps into and over the audience, has endeared him to Cirque-goers everywhere. No stranger to the Broadway stage, Shiner won a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for a silent two-man show, Fool Moon, which he wrote and co-starred in. He also originated the role of The Cat In The Hat for the Broadway musical, Seussical.
With international Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal, Canada, KOOZA premiered under the blue and yellow striped Big Top in 2007. It has since travelled to 47 cities in thirteen countries and has been seen by over 5 million people. After its current run in Vancouver, Canada, KOOZA will tour in South America for the first time in 2016.
Cirque du Soleil KOOZA boasts stunning costumes designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt and an imaginative set, “The Bataclan” created by Stephane Roy. Their inspiration is a mash-up of out-takes from Tim Burton’s film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mad Max, Baron Munchhausen and everything Bollywood – if you can imagine them all together on one stage. Live music with singers chanting in indiscernible languages throughout electrifying lighting effects, adds to the magic and mystique that is the trademark of every Cirque du Soleil production.