London Theatre Review: Cirque du Soleil
| By Jack Hudson
In 1984, 20 fire-breathing, stilt-striding performers took to the streets of the colourful Baie-Saint-Paul in Québec City, Canada. The shows they put on there began a journey to bring the struggling circus arts back under the spotlight. Cometh wide-eyed audiences far and wide, cometh the now world-famous Cirque du Soleil – a contemporary Circus troupe that have just returned for their annual residency and stuck another near-perfect landing in the Royal Albert Hall.
Again, in Cirque du Soleil: Luzia, the troupe has lined up all their arrows and fired them into the audience with unrelenting flair and breathtaking artistic precision. Set in a dreamscape that merges Alice’s Wonderland with rural Mexico, the waking dream of Luzia is at times overwhelming, combining an interplay of light (luz in Spanish) and rain (Iluvia) to bring acrobatic sequences to life in a way that is soulful and drenched in the phenomena of nature. Imagine an act in which a long-haired, shirtless corde lisse acrobat spirals upwards through a 14-metre water curtain, hurling a shower of spiralling rain over the Royal Albert Hall, whilst a huge leopard watches from below, and you’ll have some idea of the scale and fantasy that goes into Eugenio Caballero’s sets... and justifies our hyperbole.
The verdict? The Canadian-rooted company has served up another culturally rich, high-stakes spectacle for its 30th anniversary. Flickers of clown-foolery notwithstanding, the show travels at a very fast pace with plenty of moments to suck the air out of the auditorium, from a man in a Lucha Libre mask performing a full 360 swing (almost clipping the distant ceiling), to a brilliant blue-hued throwback when moustachioed strongman, Ugo Laffolay, flexes his muscles atop impossibly tall, bending poles. And all of this accompanied by undulating Muzak and bursts of traditional song that heighten the tension and stir up the gooseflesh.
You can’t help but feel that strong sense of connection between these performers - virtuosos of a now rarefied art. They hang together before you in momentary peril, immersed in the action, risking everything, before being reunited time and time again with apparent ease, as though you'd just been lost in the warm-up.
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