Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cirque du Soleil in Limbo: What Drives -- and Bores -- Guy Laliberte, When the World is Not Enough?

Out on a cold dull day here in Oakland, on my walk about, thoughts of the Cirque King Guy Laliberte, and reasons why I no longer feel so connected to the man or his circus.
Personally, he insults me by the way he hands out "free water" to patrons. For years, in large bottles outside the tent, free water and cups.  That was fine and decent.  Classy.

And then for years, they were swimming in money, and the bottles disappeared.  Go pay two bucks or more for a bottle of spring water, from the "One Drop" man who made a big thing about wanting to preserve the planet's water for those in need -- and I guess for himself, to sell it off to captive customers.

Now, the large bottles have returned.  Free water!  But, good grief, no cups.  To buy one -- you gotta pay one dollar. How desperate can they get?

Artistically, of the last three shows, the first two left me naggingly unmoved. Mediocre.  Humdrum.  Too much same old same old.  The last one, Kurios, said to be a return to their "roots," was really just more special effects and fewer top class acts.

Thirty one years is a good record. Mr. Guy, who just sold all but 10% of his interest in the company, already will go down as one of the greatest circus impresarios ever.  Another great 20th century big top mover and shaker sold out after thirty years -- John Ringling North.  But the latter left when his circus was back on top, following a break-out 1965 opus with an invasion of acts from behind the Iron Curtain, bringing fresh blood to the rings, raves to the reviews --- NY to LA, putting more bodies in the seats. And JRN was not lusting after new markets to conquer. He had tired in the Old World and failed.

Laliberte's operation is hurting, and now, still at the helm, he wants to finally somehow someway conquer the Chinese.  He's already tried.  Not sure he understands how or why it did not work.

Leaving the tent after taking in Kurios (3 stars) last December in  SF, I fairly floated.  It was the vibrantly compelling second half that put me back in the "fan" category.  But, still, not enough.  Know something?  I had to concentrate too hard to understand all the clever little lighting effects and various other goings-on around a pole, over there in the audience, through a hole in the tent, up up up  see, can you believe it?  Pay attention! ... When should going to a circus be a workout? 

I never thought that Cirque du Soleil, so brilliant at first, would last beyond a few years, thinking it would soon become a caricature of itself and fade.  Remarkably, it did incredible things.  For a time, it could do no wrong. Laliberte was a marketing genius.

The future feels already sinking deeper into limbo.  Circuses are NOT operated by corporations. And if the Cirque King stays, trouble is, he seems bored without new markets to conquer.  And I fear that he already has run out of new markets to conquer.   Mars?  Pluto?

If only he could accept the world as it is.

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