Review by Rosie Holmes
Cirque du Soleil are undoubtedly the most famous circus troupe in the world, recently celebrating 40 years since their inception. Their most recent London offering, Alegria, originally premiered in 1994, becoming an instant hit, and has now been reimagined for a new audience and brought back to life for a limited season at the Royal Albert Hall, filled to the brim with Cirque’s trademark acrobatics, stunts and high energy routines.
Alegria tells the story of a kingdom that has lost its king, witnessing the power struggle at play between the old order and the youth clamouring for hope and renewal. Bumbling jester Mr tFleur (Bohdan Zavalishyn) clumsily tries to take the throne as a growing desire for change emerges. However, I only know that this was the plot because I read the programme, as I don’t think I could have deciphered that from the show alone.
But let’s be honest, nobody really goes to a Cirque du Soleil show for the plot, do they? The audience are there for mind blowing, often gravity defying tricks and high-octane routines, which the show certainly delivers. After a seemingly slow start to the evening, the first big routine is the Acro Poles, performed by a large team of acrobats from across the globe. Vaulting over, onto, and across large poles, they demonstrate incredible strength and skill, even creating towers of 3 people on top of only one of the poles. It’s safe to say my heart rate was high and I was on the edge of my seat. In fact, these large group segments were definite highlights of the night, with the Powertrack act also providing thrills and demonstrating remarkable choreography as trampolines are revealed under the stage, and a 16 strong team flip and spin across them with incredible grace and control.
There are more intimate acts as well, perhaps indicative of the fact Alegria is one of the troupes earliest shows, as some of the more recent shows appear more focused on filling large spaces with huge group performances. The Cyr Wheel performed by Ghislain Ramage was definitely less death-defying, but no less awe-inducing as he seemingly floated within the large, spinning metal hoop. Aerialists Yulia Makeeva and AlexyTurchenko wowed with their super human strength and grace in the air, and Daru Kalinina and Halina Starevich proved that you don’t even need any equipment to wow audiences as they precariously balanced on each other, contorting themselves into positions that frankly defied any biology or physics I have ever learnt.
Falaniko Solomorna performed a fire knife dance, which almost had me watching from behind my hands, deftly spinning swords of fire over his head, and even placing the fire on the balls of his feet, accompanied by Anthony Prochilo's energetic and dramatic drum solo. Yet the best was saved till last, with a flying trapeze act which elicited a host of genuine ‘wow’ moments as they swung across the stage, catching each other and flipping over one other. Perfectly synchronised, and with the most precise timing, they induced fear and excitement in the audience, but never losing control of their movements and stunts.
There are slower sections, such as when clowns Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez provide some charming comedic moments. There is a particularly amusing scene for the adults involving a gun and a pipe cleaner… However, it does feel that maybe they appear one or two too many times, providing interludes between almost every act, which results at some points in an unfortunate slowing of the generally fast pace.
All of these wonderful acts are accompanied by live music, with the show’s soundtrack having been nominated for a Grammy. Cássia Raquel and Sarah Manesse perform a number of powerful ballads, adding to the drama of the night. The live band keep the performers in time and an unexpected surprise of the night for me was, my absolute appreciation for the extremely talented accordion player!
Not only are the performers world class at a Cirque du Soleil show but so too are the whole crew. Costumes and high budget set design pull together to make the whole piece a theatrical showstopper. Upon arrival the audience are met with a large throne, reminiscent of Game of Thrones iron namesake. The stage seamlessly peels back to reveal a labyrinth of trampolines, and effortless transitions that are just as beautifully choreographed as the performances themselves. A particularly special moment, without giving too much away is the snowstorm sequence, which despite using simple materials is pretty incredible to be a part of.
Cirque du Soleil are well renowned across the globe, and rightly so. Their shows are quite simply put a spectacle of entertainment and thrills and a showcase of just what the human body is capable of. The latest outing of Alegria is just another confirmation of why the troupe have enjoyed such enduring success. If you have a case of the January blues, Alegria, actually translatable in Spanish to joy, will no doubt cure it.
Alegria: In A New Light plays at the Royal Albert Hall until Sunday 3rd March 2024, tickets available here - Cirque Du Soleil | Royal Albert Hall
Photos by Anne-Marie Forker Photography