It opens with two clowns, Oulai and Nalai, who have a book emblazoned on its cover with the letter Z. Upon opening it, Nalai literally jumps into the book and pulls Oulai in with him. The pair are transported to the story of Zed, a boy clad all in white, who is witness to the separation of two worlds: that of the sky, tended to by the goddess Nouit, and that of the earth, ruled by Abraka. The two worlds long to come together as one, shown with the various acrobatics acts which involve one side struggling to meet the other, and Zed himself just could be the key to making it happen.
ZED primarily draws its symbolism from the Tarot, with Zed himself as the Fool, Abraka as the Magician, Nouit as the Star, and a Shaman guiding Zed through his story as the Hierophant. It was the company's first collaboration with director François Girard (followed later by Zarkana). The show, itself, was seen as a welcome return to form after some mild disappointments among the troupe's fanbase.
Unfortunately, the show's 2011 season was interrupted by the earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan, and with ticket sales for tourism across the board at an all-time low, it was forced to close at the very end of the year. It was filmed for home media during those final performances.
This show contains examples of:
- Audience Participation: But of course. In the prologue, Oulai asks for the audience's help in finding Nalai, as well as for assistance in getting back onto the stage. Those individuals who gave the greatest help often got a small shower of glitter as their reward.
- Casanova Wannabe: Zed finds himself smitten with a sky nymph (the tissue routine), but is too dumbstruck to approach her. When two more nymphs (the straps routine) approach him later, he is more successful. This begins the process of uniting the worlds.
- Catching Some Z's: A wagon-like mobile bed the clowns have comes with these built in.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Compared to the sky people's iridescent color schemes, the people of earth wear... well, much more earthen tones, as well as ones which bring fire to mind. The Shaman and his Djinn accomplice are also clad in very dark colors, but they're anything but evil. Kernoun and his minions play it straight.
- Enigmatic Empowering Entity: The Shaman is literally this for the entire story. Both Nouit and Abraka are invoked into being by him, and he is the one who sets Zed on his journey to bring them together.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Nouit's costume has a tremendous amounts of sparkles built into it, and she rules over the vast starry sky.
- The Fool: Zed, as befitting his personification as this Tarot card. He's something of an imbecile at the beginning of the story, but he grows into the champion both worlds need by the end.
- Large and in Charge: Abraka is a fairly large fellow
- Light Is Good: Zed wears white and has Mystical White Hair. It's symbolic of his role as the one who can finally unite the sky and earth.
- Me's a Crowd: Zed has several doppelgängers when the story first begins, but they are condensed into one being by the time Abraka makes his entrance.
- Non-Ironic Clown: Oulai the Control Freak, and Nalai the Lazy Bum.
- Portal Book: The Z book itself, which Oulai and Nalai travel into. At the end, all the characters follow them out into the real world.
- Protagonist Title: Both for the show itself and for the book featured therein.
- Satan: Kernoun. Appropriately, he's based on the Tarot card the Devil.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Incredibly idealistic. The sky and earth worlds coming together is seen as a very good thing.
- Tarot Motifs: A central facet of the main characters.
- Winged Humanoid: Nouit is almost angelic in appearance, sporting fourteen wings, but in lieu of legs, her lower body tapers down to a single point.