Many people I know (including my husband) have attended one or more performances of Cirque du Soleil. They all raved about the experience. Not being a fan of circuses, I wasn’t all that interested. Then came the announcement that Cirque was coming to my town.
In my mind, this was fate. I wouldn’t need to travel to see a performance (I don’t travel well for any reason). Instead, the show would be practically at my front door. After discovering an online discount of 30 percent on ticket prices, I secured tickets for my husband and me.
As the date neared, I actually became excited about the prospect. I reasoned that my childhood distaste might have matured to an appreciation for, or even delight in, the talent of the performers. The day came, and I happily went off to the event.
It was a cool day in Southern California, with temperatures in the low 60s and the wind blowing. Anticipating a long walk from the parking lot to our seats, and being prone to feeling cold at any time, I dressed warmly. As soon as we found our seats, I regretted my choice of apparel. It was warm and humid inside the tent, the temperature rising uncomfortably as the arena filled with people. I quickly shed a layer of clothing.
Then came the overwhelming smell of popcorn. The 4:30 p.m. performance time was especially enticing to popcorn enthusiasts whose dinner hour was about to be delayed. As families with garbage can-size containers of popcorn passed nearby, the scent from their open buckets wafted over us. The overly warm temperature added to the intensity of the smell, almost to the point of being nauseating.
As the lights dimmed, performers appeared throughout the audience. Their function was to boost audience participation. They did this by enticing increasingly loud yells, which were rewarded by various chandeliers lighting up and spotlights shining. The shrieks from enthusiastic participants around me hurt my sensitive ears. A cringe from my husband (who suffers from tinnitus) told me he was similarly affected. But this was only the beginning.
Suddenly, the center stage lit up, filled with dancers and unicyclists, and the music began to roar. To say it was loud would be like saying a hurricane was breezy. This was boomingly, shakingly, and sickeningly loud. A torture chamber would be a fair comparison. Each pounding bass note reverberated in my stomach. My hands flew to my ears. For a moment, I regretted not having earplugs, until I realized how useless they would be.
Assuring myself that this couldn’t continue, I focused my attention on the performers, but the sound level remained steady. With fingers plugged firmly into my ear canals, I surveyed the audience. Other than my husband, no one else seemed bothered by the noise level. People seated around us were completely enthralled by the onstage events while they contentedly chomped on their popcorn.
The look on my husband’s face told me that at least one other person shared my pain. The amped-up volume of movie trailers in a theater causes his ears to ring uncomfortably for days; the current experience would be agony for him. Ten minutes into the performance, we decided this experience was intolerable to both of us, and we left.
Even in the lobby, which was blocked from the main arena by heavy curtains, the sound was hurtful to my ears. Emerging into the cool afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief. It compared to waking from a nightmare to find it was only a dream.
On the way home, we luxuriated in the silence of our car and recovered from our auditory bombardment. Then, a car filled with young men pulled up alongside us at a red light. Their windows, like ours, were closed against the cold. Even so, the music that reverberated from their vehicle was overpowering to us. We were grateful when the light turned green.
This was an expensive mistake, but an educational one. After decades of nonattendance, I am of the opinion that performances of this kind are designed for young audiences. Of course, we weren’t the only seniors in attendance; if age alone had been the reason for our discomfort, more people would have been leaving. For people of any age who have overly sensitive fibromyalgia ears or tinnitus, however, they would be way too loud.
I just know I was glad to get home.
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