Quidam spins, leaps, balances, poses and whaddyaknow -“ delivers.

Cirque du Soleil has reached Sydney for a third time, so we know the drill: incredible acrobatic feats, beautiful costumes, a non-narrative fable with a slightly surreal production design and bursts of lush, over-blown, but ultimately forgettable music.

Quidam has all of these, but with an oddly adult and grim subtext (we’ll get to that shortly).

The highlights are (cue post-show breathy enunciation) -“ spectacular. Four very young girls spin the diabolo (or Chinese yo-yo) in a series of increasingly challenging tricks and tumbles. Fifteen Slavic hunks toss their way through the Banquine, a series of acrobatic hurls that conclude with a pyramid four men high.

There are plenty more moments, all linked by the show’s theme Quidam, a Latin word meaning nameless passer-by. The passers-by here are the entire cast: a menagerie encountered by a young girl whose home and parents are levitated away in the opening minutes.

Then there are the dark flourishes. Costumed performers collapse at the end of Act One, releasing red balloons, which may represent their souls. Suspended by red cloth, a female performer forms a noose as if to take her life and the crowd gasps. The costumes of performers spinning in aerial hoops are streaked with red veins, opened in full scarlet on their chests.

All of which bring the show closer towards something approaching art, although it’s hardly necessary. Cirque du Soleil is about incredibly well performed circus, a genre as unconcerned with such aesthetic concerns as a clown is for shoes that fit.

(Some mention has to be made of Cirque du Soleil’s curious history regarding its gay employees and audiences. The company has a reputation for being outrageously gay-friendly, with their latest show Zumanity featuring a climactic love scene between two gay dancers, who are also lovers offstage. Their reputation was tarnished, however, following a court case in April, which found one production had discriminated against acrobat Matthew Cusick, who was fired after disclosing his HIV status. The company now hosts anti-discrimination training worldwide for all employees.)

Quidam is showing in the Grand Chapiteau in the Showring, Fox Studios, until 24 October. Phone 1300 130 300.

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