REVIEW /// “Run Stumbles at Bit…”

{by: Eric Nowak}

My girlfriend and I went to see R.U.N on Sunday, Dec 22nd. We went to the 7pm and 9:30pm shows to see it from different views and to make sure I could to give it a proper review.

With R.U.N, you have to go in with an open mind because this is not like the traditional Cirque shows. I wish they did a better job with the marketing because I feel a lot of people go into this still thinking they are going to see a bunch of circus acts mixed in with stunts and fighting, which isn’t the case. Also, the theater wasn’t made specifically for this show which hinders the creativity a bit but Cirque does a good job with what they have to work with.

To start off, I’d like to address some of the criticism from other reviewers and what I thought were some minor problems I specifically had before going into the positives.

A lot of people seem to have a problem with how loud the music is. Some say it was so loud that they had to use earplugs. I am not doubting them, but I would like to say that I believe Cirque listened to that feedback and corrected this. Both my girlfriend and I didn’t find the music to be that loud and she has more sensitive hearing than me. The volume level sounded like any other Vegas Cirque show such as O and Ka. I’ve heard louder sound when seeing movies in Imax.

Another complaint is how fake the fights look. When I first watched the original video Cirque put out from the opening scene, yes…there were some bad moments. With that said, I think the performers have gotten more comfortable with the timing of punches, kicks, etc because while you can still occasionally see the hits not connecting, it all looked pretty good and they moved much quicker instead of being slow with their moves. Remember, this isn’t like watching a movie where you can hide stuff with camera angles. The fighting will never look 100% legit.

One other thing I noticed in reviews is that people say it’s more like watching a movie than a live show. Some even say that 70% of the show is video. I don’t think that they were paying much attention to their surroundings. There are three main videos if I remember correctly. The very beginning which introduces the main characters and sets up the story. That goes on for maybe 4 minutes or so. After the warehouse fight, we get the opening credits which is about 2 minutes. Then there are end credits. That’s all of the main video. Any other time video is being played, it’s shot live. Certain situations happen on the sides of the theater or in the middle walkway. So instead of having to turn around to look, you can easily watch the screen in front of you. What’s cool about this and a positive for me is that if you choose to watch the screen during these live portions, they add props and the way the action is shot makes it feel like you’re watching a real movie going on simultaneously. So you as the viewer can choose which way you want to see it. This happens only a couple times during the show. From what I can remember, it’s when “Me” is searching for “The Dancer” to get the necklace. Then this happens during the Torture scene. With this part, you don’t need to watch the upper portion of the stage to see the video since the action is right there on stage, but again, the way the background props are set up and the way it’s shot, it is pretty cool to watch the video. It came in handy seeing the show twice, that way I could check out both the action on stage and watch the videos the second time around. To conclude on this part, I’d say there are maybe 7 minutes total of video that you have to watch without anything else going on. The rest of the times video is being shown, it’s being filmed live and you can choose to either watch the performers or the video if you don’t feel like turning your head.

Alright, now here are my personal negatives of the show. They are very minor, but still things that could be fixed.

First one is some of the lighting. There are parts during the show where the light is so blinding, you can’t see what’s going on or you just have to look away/cover your eyes. This was much worse sitting up close. First show, we were maybe 4th row from the stage, center. This happened about four or five times. Luckily it only lasted a few seconds or so each time, but still annoying. The second time we were in the 1st row center, right by the middle walkway. It happened less sitting in these seats, but still had blinding light maybe two times or so. Sitting closer is much worse and I hope they can fix this. One part I can remember was during the first fight towards the end when “Me” and “Groom” are fighting on the moving platform. There are lights right above if I remember correctly that are constantly on. For most of this part, I had to cover my eyes or squint to see.

The only other negative is that a couple scenes feel like they go on a bit too long. I really enjoyed the car chase, but even for me it felt longer than it needed to be. The other scene when “Me” and “Bride” are under the water. They play a quick video showing the characters floating and then fades to the performers on wires floating around. This part looked a bit silly and again, went on too long. I’d say leave the video portion and cut the performers floating around. Now, if they can make the performers floating look more realistic, then I say cut out the video and leave the live performance in. This scene doesn’t need both.

Now for all of the positives! I’ve been a Cirque fan going on 25 years and have seen most of their shows with the exception of maybe three. As much as I enjoy their shows, I’ve always wanted to see Cirque try something different or unique. Get out of their comfort zone. They did this with Zumanity and it’s now one of my favorite shows. So I was excited to see R.U.N since it’s new territory for Cirque. The negative reviews were starting to worry me, but I always go into a new show with an open mind and it helped that I knew this wouldn’t be the usual Cirque show. After seeing it twice and having some time to think about it, I really enjoyed R.U.N!

The opening video introducing the characters and setting up the story was pretty cool for the simple fact they filmed the performers doing this and then added a filter to make it look like a comic/graphic novel come to life. Some people hate the fact that it’s video, but you have to keep in mind that this theater wasn’t built for a Cirque show like all of the others. There would be no way they could pull this off in the theater, so I was perfectly fine with the video.

After the intro, “Me” crashes out of a window and comes into the audience, which was a pretty neat transition from video to the live performance. He then proceeds to fight some of the rival gang members before ziplining into the fireworks factory where the first brawl takes place.

The brawl, as I mentioned earlier, was a lot of fun to watch and got me pumped for the show. Again, it feels like the performers are more comfortable now with their moves and it made the fights look more realistic. Everyone had high energy and it was overall enjoyable.

Opening credits….not much to say about that since it’s just some pictures and names fading in and out. I can get this out of the way though and say that the music here and during the rest of the show was really good. Some music is original and some were not. Still, I think the music they chose works well with the show. The DJ wasn’t performing that night which was disappointing, but in her place was the guitarist who was great!

Next scene opens with “Me” hunting down “The Dancer” to get the necklace. Yes, the necklace is important but I’m trying not to spoil much. This part I really liked because this is where you can choose to watch the performers or the video on stage. A camera operator follows the performers around so it’s all happening live. What’s cool about this is that it’s fun watching the performers, but there are little set details you won’t notice unless you watch the video as well. Example, you see the performer open a door and go into a room where he is attacked. Cool, but if you watch the video, you can see that they made it look like a trashy apartment and “Me” is searching for the necklace under junk. It looked just like a movie happening at the same time. I really appreciate that and found it unique.

The following scene is a flashback showing how both gangs got along before things go wrong. The dancing was hit and miss for me and felt like it dragged a bit. While some danced, others were spray painting on the walls which was done with projections, which was neat. Then we get our first motor bike act which had the drivers performing stunts on the ground. Pretty fun and entertaining to watch.

Next comes the controversial torture scene. First I’d like to address all of the people that say it’s too violent and doesn’t fit in with the show. It’s an action/thriller! It’s going to be violent! Honestly the torture parts didn’t bother me at all. There is no blood or gore and I’ve seen equal or a bit worse in PG13 movies. The reason I enjoyed this act so much is that Cirque got creative and found a way to add sideshow acts into the story. So for people complaining there is no circus acts in the show, this part is your circus act. Sideshow acts have always been a part of circus but it’s not really appreciated which is sad. It’s still performance art, it came from the circus, and you have to be skilled, not to mention brave. I’m happy to see sideshow acts get some recognition, especially in a big show like this. Anyways, there are two Doctors in rotation for this act and I had the pleasure of seeing Auzzy in the role. He was great and very talented along with the other performers who get set on fire and have their arm broken. This was one of my favorite and most memorable acts of the show.

The car chase comes next and I have to say it was more fun to see this in person than the small video clip online. There is much more that goes on and I love how they integrate performers and the car with the video background. As mentioned earlier though, this act feels like it goes on a bit too long. My girlfriend said it best in that it feels like one of those video game levels you keep dying in over and over until you learn every turn perfectly. Still, another highlight of the show and a favorite of mine.

The two characters, “Me” and “Bride” have crashed into the river. There is a quick video of them under water and then it fades to the performers hanging from wires pretending to swim. The way it’s presented and the movements kind of make the scene goofy. If they can’t get the swimming movements to be more real or at least subtle, I say cut that and leave the video in. If they can improve the performers swimming, then get rid of the video and keep the live performance. One of my least favorite parts but it has potential to be a beautiful scene.

The matrix run was pretty cool. You have “Me” running in cyberspace and the way he ran with the harness along with the video projection was fun to watch, though a bit silly at times because the performer had to do arm movements outside of the wires attached to his waist. So when he faced sideways or ran up/down, it looked good. Running towards the audience or away resulted in the performer looking like he really had to find a bathroom.

The final battle which is the last motor bike act where they do tricks off ramps was a lot of fun but I can see how some reviewers were put off by it because in between jumps, nothing happens and you can’t see the cyclist get ready for the jump because it’s all happening back stage. I think in between the jumps, they should have the “Punk Ninjas” (at least that’s what I’m calling them) dance or do some more moves with their bo-staffs. Overall, good end to the show and fun to watch.

So that’s my thoughts on R.U.N. I know it’s a long read, but I wanted to make sure I touched on everything. I’ll end this review trying to answer if you should see this or not. My girlfriend and I loved the show, but not everyone will. If you want to see a Cirque du Soleil show with acrobatics, circus acts, and weird costumes, then this isn’t for you. If you are a fan but looking for something unique, fun, and have an open mind, then give R.U.N a shot.