The sky lets go a solitary young man, and the story of “Varekai” begins.
The figure is none other than the mythical figure Icarus, who has flown too close to the sun and is in a free-fall into the shadows of a forest, at the summit of a volcano, that’s inhabited by fantastical creatures.
“It’s been 15 years since this show went on the road. They put a forest of 230 trees in the middle of the Liacouras Center arena,” said “Cirque du Soleil: Varekai” touring publicist Maxwell Batista, adding that it’s been performed in 200 cities worldwide.
Rewriting the story of Icarus, who falls into the sea and dies in the original tale, the creatures of the forest rescue him, help him heal from his injuries, teach him to walk again and rediscover life. “Here in ‘Varekai,’ they give him a happy ending,” Batista said. “It’s a story about love, with a touch of comedy.”
In signature Cirque du Soleil fashion, the story is told in the international language of circus arts, live music, choreography and video art. Elements of the performance include Georgian dance with sparking light swords, dancing on crutches, hand balancing on canes, trapeze flying on a Russian swing and something called “slippery surface” — a sequence of jumping, hand standing and other tricks on a specially designed sliding surface that suggests being under water.
Francois Gravel, an aerial acrobat and gymnast who portrays Icarus, called the show entertaining and powerful and said that kids will enjoy it. “It’s pretty amazing ... every show, you can’t believe it’s happening to you,” said Gravel, an alumnus of the National Circus School (Ècole Nationale de Cirque) in Montreal, which is located near Cirque du Soleil’s headquarters. He joined Cirque du Soleil in 2014 with the show “Quidam.”
“In ‘Varekai’ I’m doing a net act,” he said of Icarus’ acrobatic struggle in a net that holds him captive.
Batista noted that the cast of 50 and crew of 100 represent 16 different nationalities. The production requires 21 trucks to take it on tour.
According to the Cirque du Soleil website, the word “Varekai” means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies — the universal wanderers. Directed by Dominic Champagne, the production pays tribute to the nomadic soul.