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You can see it...you can experience it...but you won't...believe it—Tagline
KA is a Cirque Du Soleil show installed in a specially-constructed showroom at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. It opened in 2005 as the company's fourth show in the city and sixteenth production overall.
Directed by Robert Lepage, the Something Completely Different concept of this show is a focus on linear storytelling. In this show the plot is intended as the heart of the experience -- the acrobatics and other specialty acts advance it (instead of Cirque's usual structure of individual acts, the show is divided into scenes). There is no real world-language dialogue within the show, save for a brief English narration at the beginning. The title is both the Egyptian word for "duality" and the Japanese word for "fire"; as the narration points out, fire can be both destructive and life-bringing, and used for good or evil...
Heavily inspired by Wuxia, the story is set in "The Empire", a kingdom of noble warriors, good-hearted commoners, and kindly royalty. The teenaged Imperial Twins (boy and girl) have arrived back from overseas to their palace grounds and their parents, the Emperor and Empress. Alas, the celebration is tragically undone when evil forces (the Archers and Spearmen) led by one known as The Counselor attack; their parents are slain and the Twins are separated in the ensuing melee. The story proceeds to alternate between the journeys of each. The Twin Sister escapes with her Nursemaid and a trio of Valets to a boat; after a storm at sea they travel over beach, mountain, and forest, often only steps ahead of the Archers and Spearmen. The Twin Brother and his loyal Court Jester friend wind up captives of the villains in a lair where the Counselor's equally wicked son has developed a powerful explosive that requires slave labor to manufacture, and they find a friend in the Chief Archer's Daughter. Eventually the twins and their respective parties will be reunited to battle the Counselor's army and decide the fate of the Empire.
Yes, it's a Cliché Storm, albeit possibly justified, given its lack of dialogue and firm focus on visuals. Indeed, the telling of the tale is what gives this show its power, and it starts with Scenery Porn then Serial Escalation. The show does not have a conventional stage, but two large platforms that are hydraulically manipulated from below the audience's line of sight to rise, tilt, spin, and even stand completely vertical to create a variety of settings, sometimes with the help of film projections. One moment, the stage is a beach; from beneath its "sand" whimsical sea creatures emerge to surprise the Twin Sister and her companions. The next scene, it is the wall of a cave. Later, it spins to depict a pursuit up a mountainside, as the heroes scramble up by grabbing onto the "arrows" shot into its side by the villains. In the climax, it allows us an aerial view of a Wire Fu battle. But the Spectacle isn't just technological; from martial arts to full-body puppetry to more Cirque-conventional acrobatics (aerial straps, manipulation, etc.), there's lots to see in one of the most elaborate theatrical productions in the world.
In North America, the documentary DVD KA Extreme (available through the Cirque's online boutique) takes a look at its creation and elaborate staging. The show even found its way into CSI via the episode "Built to Kill, Part 1". In 2007, the German TV station ZDF recorded the whole show in cooperation with Cirque du Soleil -- making it the first time one of their Las Vegas shows has been filmed. It has been aired several times in Germany and in France, together with a realtime backstage documentary of the same show, but there are no plans to release a DVD of these recordings.
This show contains examples of:
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: The Shadow Play, which is so well-regarded that it's one of the clips that you might encounter on your first visit to the Cirque company website.
- All There in the Manual: The show does its best to make the story and character development clear, but yes, reading up on it beforehand via the official website helps.
- Annoying Arrows: Avoided with the Archers' weapons of choice, which are definitely deadly.
- Audience Participation: Unconventional example. Since the story and staging prevent Cirque's usual invocation of this trope, the theater's lobby and seating areas are presented as a "village" the audience is visiting for the celebration of the twins' return. As such, all of the ushers ("Gatekeepers") are residents of the village who welcome the visitors and joke with them in-character; each with a unique character at that. As showtime draws closer, the stage area (which appears as a giant, firey pit) and surrounding catwalks are revealed to be the depths of the villains' mine as the Archers and Spearmen scramble about.
- Bamboo Technology: The Mountain Tribe's flying machine.
- The Centerpiece Spectacular: The Slave Cage, which sets up the climactic battle.
- Chase Scene: The Climb.
- Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: The Climb, as the Twin Sister's party flees the villains via a very steep mountainside.
- Costume Porn: From royal robes to warriors' tattoos to full-body animal outfits (which cross over with puppetry).
- Crosscast Role: The Twin Brother, due to casting identical female twins for the lead roles.
- Distressed Dude: The Twin Brother and the Court Jester are captured and caged, and freed by the Chief Archer's Daughter.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: All the good guys suffer through myriad trials, but their efforts pay off in spades.
- Epic Song: "Pageant".
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The Firefly Boy, referred to at the trope entry as "sparkly Tarzan".
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The Love Dance (manipulation) and the Slave Cage (wheel of death). Even the stage is better with spinning in this show!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: All the character names!
- Half-Identical Twins: Our heroes.
- Happily Ever After
- Heel Face Turn: In the end, all the villains -- yes, even the Counselor and his son -- repent of their evil ways.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: It doesn't actually result in death, but the Counselor's Son is permanently blinded by his own explosive when he tries to use it against the good guys.
- Human Resources: The explosive is a powder created when a certain ore and human bones are ground up together. The villains have no shortage of either; now all they need are slaves to power the grinding machine...
- Jungle Japes: The Forest.
- Kick the Dog: The theater rules are presented without dialogue as the Counselor and his son encounter an "audience member" (plant) who breaks the three rules: no flash photography, cell phones must be turned off, and no smoking. They toss his camera into the pit, then his cell phone...then him.
- The Kingdom: It's called The Empire, but it's really this.
- Love At First Sight: The Twin Sister and the Firefly Boy.
- Nameless Narrative: Unusually for a Cirque show, no character has a proper name!
- Nice Hat: The starfish on the beach certainly thinks the Valets' red hats are nice -- it takes one of them for itself!
- Older Sidekick: The Valets and the Nursemaid for the Twin Sister, and the Court Jester for the Twin Brother.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Change "Latin" to "Simlish" and you're good to go whenever the action heats up. The music for this show was mostly prerecorded so they could give it a full orchestra and choir to augment the live musicians.
- One-Woman Wail: "Aftermath".
- Opening Narration: Needed to set up the premise.
- Orchestral Bombing: "Battlefield", which underscores the climactic battle.
- Plucky Comic Relief: The Valets and the Nursemaid.
- Retool: The show has had significant tweaks to make the story flow and "read" better.
- Originally the Chief Archer's Daughter first encountered the good guys in a mountain scene involving huge pillars the performers jumped to and from. This scene took so long to set up and take down that the surrounding scenes with the Twin Sister's group on the mountaintop had to be padded, hurting the show's momentum. It's also been said that this scene caused too many injuries. The pillars were dropped and instead she encounters them during Shadow Play -- which better establishes her interest in the Twin Brother as well.
- The Twin Sister arrived at the tail end of the Forest People scene, and her romance with the Firefly Boy was thus abrupt; later the scene was retooled to give the performers an aerial strap act that allowed the audience to see them fall in love.
- Rewritten Pop Version / Rearrange the Song: The last three tracks on the soundtrack album are mostly-English pop songs based on tunes from the score.
- Scenery Porn, Scenery Porn, Scenery Porn
- Set Switch Song: The Deep (and its song) allows the set to switch from The Storm to The Archers' Den by concealing it behind a screen.
- Shallow Love Interest: The Chief Archer's Daughter for the Twin Brother, and the Firefly Boy for the Twin Sister. At least both pitch in to help the heroes -- the former frees the Twin Brother and the Jester from their cages, and the latter participates in the final battle along with his fellow forest dwellers.
- Silence Is Golden, Singing Simlish, and Speaking Simlish: As per Cirque's usual style.
- Storyboard: The creators used storyboards (unusual for live theater) as part of the larger creative process, and you can see some of them at the offical website.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: The fighters flying about the Battlefield.
- Tattooed Crook: The Archers and Spearmen, as well as the Counselor's Son.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The Mountain Tribe has one of these.
- Villain Opening Scene: The preshow set in the villains' mine, capped off by the Kick the Dog moment mentioned above.
- Villainous Cheekbones: The Counselor and his son, accomplished in part with makeup.
- Wire Fu: Battlefield.